The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) administration on Wednesday removed restrictions from social media usage across the Union Territory almost seven months after a communication clampdown on the eve of the Centre’s August 5 announcement to scrap the special status of the erstwhile state under Article 370 and its bifurcation.
The directions came after a review of the situation by the J&K Home department.
The order, issued without the requisite whitelisted websites, said that internet access shall be available across the Union Territory of J&K with speed restricted to 2G and “these services shall not be made available on pre-paid sim cards”. Additionally, for fixed-line internet, connectivity shall continue to be made available “with mac-binding at unlimited speeds”.
Internet services, landline, and mobile phones were snapped across J&K on the eve of the Centre’s announcement last year to scrap the special status of the erstwhile state under Article 370 and its bifurcation into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. From January, landlines, postpaid mobile services, and internet facilities to essential services like hospitals were restored in phases in Kashmir.
The easing of restrictions came after the Supreme Court, on January 10, asked the J&K administration to “review all orders suspending internet services forthwith”.
Ruling that “freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of Internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19 (1) (a) and Article 19 (1) (g)”, the Supreme Court had said that “an order suspending internet services indefinitely is impermissible”.
The government had said, “Restriction upon such fundamental rights should be in consonance with the mandate under Article 19 (2) and (6) of the Constitution, inclusive of the test of proportionality.”
On January 18, the government had restored pre-paid cellphone service (voice and SMS) across the UT, besides 2G mobile internet connectivity to 153 white-listed sites on post-paid cellphones in all the 10 districts of Jammu and two revenue districts of Kashmir — Kupwara, and Bandipora.
On January 31, the administration increased the number of white-listed sites to 481. On February 16, more than 1,000 websites were added to the internet whitelist, taking the total number from 481 to 1,485.