Given the extreme difficulty being faced by the courts in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in holding virtual hearings on account of restrictions on the high-speed Internet connectivity, the J&K High Court has directed Shaleen Kabra, the Home Secretary to the J&K Government, to appear before the court on July 16 to apprise it about the impact of the restrictions on e-connectivity of the courts.
“Access to justice is a fundamental right and cannot be impeded. It has to be ensured to every citizen and courts are required to remain accessible”, a division bench comprising the Chief Justice Gita Mital and Justice Sanjay Dhar said.
Further, the bench said, “it has been impossible today to have even a bare semblance of a hearing. We have struggled to have virtual/or audio connectivity with the amicus curiae and the several counsels appearing before us. Even the learned Advocate General has expressed grave difficulty in joining the hearing”.
The Court also highlighted the Supreme Court’s decision on May 11 in ‘Foundation for Media Professionals v. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Anr’ whereby the apex court had directed to constitute a special committee comprising the Union Home Secretary as its chairperson and Secretary (Department of Communication) and the Chief Secretary of UT of J&K as its members to determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions on 4G Internet in J&K.
However, no special committee in light of the apex court’s order has been constituted until now. A contempt petition was filed on June 8 and has been listed to be heard tomorrow by the Supreme Court.
J&K High Court, in view of the sharp rise in the COVID-19 infections, and to strictly enforce the lockdown has been conducting hearings through virtual mode.
Internet services were suspended in J&K on August 5 last year when the Central Government decided to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcate the erstwhile state into two UTs of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh. Slow speed Internet, 2G facility was restored in January. The restrictions on high-speed Internet connectivity, however, continued.