SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir

The Indian Supreme Court on Monday reserved its verdict on the pleas seeking restoration of high-speed internet in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir region.

The pleas sought restoration of high-speed internet in the region particularly to enable access to healthcare services and online education during COVID-19 lockdown.

A three-member bench of the apex court, comprising N V Ramana, Surya Kant and B R Gavai, after hearing the arguments from the government and petitioners’ side reserved the verdict.

Reserved decision is a legal term which judges employ to deliver a decision at a later time after reviewing evidence and arguments from all parties involved.

The region has so far reported 701 coronavirus cases and eight deaths.

The government told the court that it has become necessary to restrict the internet to stop militancy. However, the petitioners rebutted the claim, saying during 1990’s, militancy was at its peak in the region and there was no internet at all during that time.

“It is for the government to explain how the Internet restriction is justified. Court cannot mechanically defer to the government’s statement that the restriction is justified,” said Huzefa Ahmadi, a petitioner’s counsel.

Previously, the Jammu and Kashmir’s government in response to the pleas had submitted a reply to the court, saying the Internet access is not a fundamental right.

On Aug. 5 last year, India stripped the semi-autonomy of the region, and downgraded it into two federal territories. The move was backed with communication blackout.

High-speed internet since then has remained blocked in the region, although Amnesty International and the UN human rights body called for lifting of restrictions on high-speed internet in the region in view of the current pandemic crisis.

As of now, the ban on high-speed internet has been extended till May 11 in the region.

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