Supreme Court of India
Foundation For Media … vs Union Territory Of Jammu And … on 11 May, 2020Author: N.V. Ramana

Bench: R S Reddy, N Ramana


(D. No. 10817 OF 2020)




(D. No. 10875 OF 2020)




(D. No. 10904 OF 2020)

Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by

Date: 2020.05.11
13:07:37 IST



1. Again, this Court is called upon to address a very important but a

sensitive issue on national security and human rights, wherein we

have to ensure that national security and human rights can be

reasonably and defensibly balanced, a responsibility, that this

Court takes with utmost seriousness.

2. This Court, vide its earlier judgment dated 10.01.2020 in

Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, (2020) SCC Online SC 25,

gave certain directions regarding the imposition of restrictions on

the internet in a proportionate manner. The aforesaid case had, in

addition to the procedural rules, supplemented the requirements of

having timely review and the non­permanence of internet

shutdown orders.

3. The three Petitioners before us are aggrieved by the fact that

Respondent No. 1 has restricted the mobile internet speed to 2G

and have approached this Court seeking 4G mobile internet, and

the quashing of the impugned orders restricting internet in the

Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

4. Broadly, the argument of the Petitioners is premised on the ground

that in the existing COVID­19 situation, when there is a national

lockdown, the restrictions imposed on the residents of the entire

Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir impacts their right to

health, right to education, right to business and right to freedom of

speech and expression.

5. They submit that access to internet acquires even more importance

under the prevailing circumstances in the country, relating to the

pandemic. The Petitioners contended that the fulfillment of the

right to health is dependent on the availability of effective and

speedy internet in order to access medical services and information

on containment strategies. The denial of such critical information

not only violates the peoples’ right to receive information, but is

also a denial of their right to health. Furthermore, the Petitioners

contend that restrictions on internet speed directly impacts the

students of Jammu and Kashmir to exercise their right to

education as they are unable to access to e­learning services such

as online video classes, and other online educational content. This

not only impacts their continuing education, but also

disadvantages the students of Jammu and Kashmir who are

preparing for national/competitive exams. Petitioner in W.P. (C) D.

No. 10817 of 2020, has appended the affidavits of a journalist who

collected testimonies of doctors, teachers, students, journalists,

lawyers and business persons from the Union Territory, and of a

technical expert narrating importance of 4G internet, to support

the above submissions.

6. Moreover, the Petitioners have argued that the actions of

Respondent No. 1 are violative of the directions laid down by this

Court in Anuradha Bhasin (supra) as well as the Temporary

Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public

Safety) Rules, 2017 [“Telecom Suspension Rules”] as no Review

Committee has been constituted by the Respondent No. 1. Further,

the blanket orders passed by Respondent No. 1, indicates non­

application of mind. Lastly, Respondent No. 1 has failed to provide

any rational nexus between the restriction of the internet speed

and national security. The Petitioners submitted that since the

introduction of internet in the Union Territory of Jammu and

Kashmir, the number of incidents relating to terrorism in the

region have actually reduced. Lastly, the Petitioners pleaded in the

alternative that if the Respondents apprehend the misuse of data

services, then they could consider restricting the internet only in

certain problematic areas or providing 3G/4G internet to certain

regions on a trial basis.

7. The learned Attorney General preliminarily contended that Courts

should not step into issues of national security which are best left

to those in charge of policy making [refer to Zamora, (1916) 2 AC

77 (PC)]. Further, the learned Attorney General relying on some

judicial pronouncements submitted that the claims of fundamental

rights have to be examined against the larger public interest of

protecting the security of the State, wherein, while balancing the

aforesaid conflicting rights, the security of the nation should

triumph against the fundamental rights of the citizens. Moreover,

in the prevailing circumstances wherein there is continuing

insurgency in the region, the spreading of fake news to incite

violence, etc., it would not be possible to provide full internet

services to the region.

8. Learned Solicitor General vehemently opposed the petitions and

argued that the authorities have strictly complied with the

directions passed by this Court on the previous occasion, and that

the relevant authorities are cognizant of not only the changing

circumstances but also the ground realities. The information

regarding COVID­19 available on various social media platforms,

government websites, applications developed by Respondent No. 2

for disseminating information can be easily downloaded over the

2G internet. Moreover, no restrictions exist over fixed line internet.

Advisories and documents relating to COVID­19 have already been

accessed by over 1 lakh health professionals in the Union Territory

of Jammu and Kashmir through fixed line internet. Further, to

ensure effective access to right to health, the Respondent No. 2 is

broadcasting information through various radio channels and

through satellite TV and local cable networks. 1.6 lakh pamphlets

and 90,000 posters in English, Urdu and Hindi are being

disseminated to the public. Wide publicity is also being given to

various helpline numbers which have been established for COVID­

19 related queries through print and electronic media. With respect

to the right to education of the students of Jammu and Kashmir,

lessons are being delivered on 16 DD channels at a national level,

and through the radio. The department has also undertaken the

distribution and delivery of textbooks, upto elementary level, to the

eligible students at their homes.

9. The learned Solicitor General also highlighted the fact that over

108 terrorist incidents have taken place in the recent past, between

August 05, 2019 to April 25, 2020 in the Union Territory of Jammu

and Kashmir. In view of the aforesaid fact, the learned Solicitor

General submitted that the current situation in the Union Territory

of Jammu and Kashmir is very grave and volatile, even referring to

the recent terrorist activity in Kupwara District. The learned

Solicitor General therefore submitted that the authorities have

calibrated the restrictions based on the requirement so as to

reduce the misuse of internet and that the measures adopted by

the authorities are reasonable. He therefore prayed that the

present petitions ought to be dismissed.

10. Before parting with the submissions of the parties, it may be stated

that Respondent No. 1 submitted an additional note dated May 06,

2020, after the hearing of the matter was concluded, wherein

recent terrorist activities in the region, and the interest shown by

the Pakistani military regarding the political developments in

Kashmir, were highlighted. Petitioners in W.P. (C) D. No. 10817 of

2020 and W.P. (C) D. No. 10875 of 2020 filed responses to the

same on May 07, 2020 and May 06, 2020 respectively. Although

the Petitioners have objected to the note filed by the Respondent

No. 1, taking into consideration the far­reaching consequences of

the issues involved herein, we have considered the submissions of

both parties.

11. Heard both the parties, and perused the documents placed before


12. At the outset, we have already laid down that the fundamental

rights of citizens need to be balanced with national security

concerns, when the situation so demands. This Court is cognizant

of the importance of these matters for the national security

concerns, and takes the same with utmost seriousness to ensure

that citizens enjoy life and liberty to the greatest possible extent.

National security concerns and human rights must be reasonably

and defensibly adjusted with one another, in line with the

constitutional principles. There is no doubt that the present

situation calls for a delicate balancing, looking to the peculiar

circumstances prevailing in the Union Territory of Jammu and

Kashmir. Before considering the relief sought by the Petitioners, it

is necessary to look at the steps taken by Respondent No. 1 after

the pronouncement of the earlier judgment of this Court in

Anuradha Bhasin (supra). For, convenience, the table below

indicates the orders which have been passed since 10.01.2020

(post Anuradha Bhasin (supra) judgment):

Home­03 (TSTS) of For Kashmir, fixed line connectivity to
2020 institutions managing essential services like
14.01.2020 hospitals, after installation of firewalls and

2G mobile internet to post­paid users to
access whitelisted sites in Jammu, Samba,
Kathua, Udhampur and Reasi.

No social media or VPNs.

Number of whitelisted sites: Not mentioned
Home­04 (TSTS) of Fixed line connectivity to also be provided to
2020 IT/software companies.
2G mobile internet for postpaid users in all
districts of Jammu and Kupwara and
Bandipora in Kashmir for accessing white
listed sites.

Prepaid connections will be provided mobile
internet only after verification by TSPs as per
applicable norms
Home­05 (TSTS) of Fixed line connectivity with MAC binding.
2020 Access only to whitelisted sites.
2G mobile internet restored in all districts of
J&K for postpaid and verified prepaid
customers but only whitelisted sites can be
accessed. No social media or VPNs
Home­08 (TSTS) of Restrictions mentioned in the Order dated
2020 24.01.2020 will continue.
Number of whitelisted sites: 329

Home­ 09 (TSTS) of Restrictions mentioned in Order dated
2020 31.01.2020 will continue.
Number of whitelisted sites: 481
Home­13 (TSTS) of Fixed Line connectivity with MAC binding.
2020 Access only to whitelisted sites.
2G mobile internet for postpaid and verified
prepaid customers but only whitelisted sites
can be accessed.

No social media or VPNs.Home­16 (TSTS) of Restrictions in Order dated 15.02.2020 will
2020 continue to apply.
Number of whitelisted sites: 1674
Home­17 (TSTS) of 2G mobile internet for postpaid and verified
2020 prepaid customers and access allowed to all
04.03.2020 websites.

Fixed line connectivity with MAC binding to
access all sites.Home­20 (TSTS) of Restrictions in Order dated 04.03.2020 will
2020 continue to apply.
Home­21 (TSTS) of 2G mobile internet for postpaid & verified
2020 prepaid customers to access all websites.
Fixed line connectivity with MAC binding to
access all sites
Home­22 (TSTS) of Restrictions in Order dated 26.03.2020 will
2020 continue to apply. 03.04.2020
Home­28 (TSTS) of 2G mobile internet for postpaid customers &
2020 verified prepaid customers to access all
15.04.2020 websites.

Fixed line connectivity with MAC binding to
access all websites without any speed
Home­34 (TSTS) of 2G mobile internet for postpaid customers &
2020 verified prepaid customers to access all
27.04.2020 websites.

Fixed line connectivity with mac binding to
access all websites without any speed

13. The above measures taken by the Respondent No. 1 have to be

seen in light of the circumstances already highlighted by the

learned Solicitor General regarding the existing law and order and

national security situations in the Union Territory, and the

occurrence of incidents that affect the integrity of the nation. The

learned Solicitor General stated that since 05.08.2019, around 108

terrorist related incidents have taken place in Union Territory of

Jammu and Kashmir, wherein 99 incidents were reported from the

Kashmir province and 09 from Jammu province. In total, 30

civilians have lost their lives and 114 civilians have been injured.

Further, more than 20 security personnel have been martyred and

54 security personnel have been injured. Moreover, 76 terrorists

have been gunned down. These facts have not been rebutted by the

Petitioners. This Court will have to consider the above in its

analysis. It may be important to note that after this matter was

reserved for orders, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir

has filed another note, indicating that the militancy has

significantly increased in the recent times, in the following manner:

26.04.2020 Encounter at Kulgam 01 person died
Gudder Kulgam
27.04.2020 Encounter at Kulgam 03 terrorists killed
Lower Munda 02 security force
Qazigund Kulgam personnel injured
28.04.2020 Encounter at Shopian 03 terrorists killed
Melhoora 02 security personnel
Zainpora injured
01 civilian injured
29.04.2020 Grenade attack Srinagar 04 CISF personnel
on police injured
deployment at 01 police personnel
Nowhatta injured
02.05.2020 Encounter at Pulwama 02 terrorists killed
02.05.2020 Encounter at Kupwara 02 terrorists killed
Najar Mohalla 04 army personnel
Chanjimulla killed including two
Handwara senior officers
01 Police SI killed
01 SF personnel
02.05.2020 Grenade attack Pulwama No damage caused
upon CRPF at
Tahab Pulwama
03.05.2020 Grenade attack Srinagar No damage caused
upon SFs at
04.05.2020 Firing attack on Kupwara 03 CRPF personnel
CRPF at Wangam killed
Karlgund 01 Civilian killed
Handwara 01 CRPF personnel
crossing injured

04.05.2020 Grenade attack Srinagar 01 CISF personnel
upon CISF injured
Bunker at Grid
Station Wagoora
Nowgam Srinagar
05.05.2020 Grenade attack Budgam 01 CRPF personnel
on police injured
deployment at 01 Police personnel
Pakharpora injured
Budgam 04 civilians injured

Respondent No. 1 has also pointed to certain material, which

indicate that cyber terrorism, is on the rise within the valley. The

Respondent No. 1, has brought to the notice of this Court that the

Pakistani Military in its “Green Book 2020” has called for an

information warfare on Kashmir, after the revocation of special

status of Jammu and Kashmir.

14. While it might be desirable and convenient to have better internet

in the present circumstances, wherein there is a worldwide

pandemic and a national lockdown. However, the fact that outside

forces are trying to infiltrate the borders and destabilize the

integrity of the nation, as well as cause incidents resulting in the

death of innocent citizens and security forces every day cannot be


15. However, the authorities in the Union Territories of Jammu and

Kashmir have selected the 2G speed to restrict the flow of

information in order to prevent misuse of data by terrorists and

their supporters to disturb the peace and tranquility of the Union

Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

16. In any case, we may note that the common thread in the impugned

orders is that they have been passed for the entire Union Territory

of Jammu and Kashmir. In this regard, our observations in the

Anuradha Bhasin (supra) may be of some relevance:

“The degree of restriction and the scope of the
same, both territorially and temporally, must
stand in relation to what is actually necessary
to combat an emergent situation.”

Although the present orders indicate that they have been passed

for a limited period of time, the order does not provide any reasons

to reflect that all the districts of the Union Territory of Jammu and

Kashmir require the imposition of such restrictions. At the same

time, we do recognize that the Union Territory of Jammu and

Kashmir has been plagued with militancy, which is required to be

taken into consideration. These competing considerations needs to

calibrated in terms of our judgment in Anuradha Bhasin (supra).

17. One of the criteria for testing the proportionality of the orders is the

territorial extent of the restrictions. In view of the observations

made in Anuradha Bhasin (supra), for meaningful enforcement of

the spirit of the judgment, inter alia, the authorities are required to

pass orders with respect to only those areas, where there is

absolute necessity of such restrictions to be imposed, after

satisfying the directions passed earlier.

18. In this regard, our attention is drawn to the fact that blanket

orders have been passed for the entire territory rather than for

specific affected areas.

19. A perusal of the submissions made before us and the material

placed on record indicate that the submissions of the Petitioners,

in normal circumstances, merit consideration. However, the

compelling circumstances of cross border terrorism in the Union

Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, at present, cannot be ignored.

20. Additionally, although the Petitioners have argued that the orders

passed by Respondent No. 1 reveals non­application of mind,

however, at the cost of repetition, it must be noted that the

authorities have been taking steps towards easing of internet

restrictions taking into account the prevailing circumstances. This

can be seen from the fact that initially only whitelisted websites

were allowed, before internet access to all websites was provided on

broadband, and finally to postpaid and verified prepaid mobile

users as well, although at 2G speeds. Further, the various steps

taken by Respondent No. 1 with respect to ensuring the

fundamental rights of the people, in relation to the existing COVID­

19 pandemic, must also be taken into account.

21. During the course of the arguments, the Respondent No. 2­ Union

of India has submitted that continuous infiltration, foreign

influence, violent extremism and issues of national integrity are

prevalent in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which are

serious issues.

22. In Anuradha Bhasin (supra), this Court has alluded to the fact

that modern terrorism is being propagated through the internet

and by using technology in the following manner:

“39. Modern terrorism heavily relies on the
internet. Operations on the internet do not
require substantial expenditure and are not
traceable easily. The internet is being used to
support fallacious proxy wars by raising
money, recruiting and spreading
propaganda/ideologies. The prevalence of the
internet provides an easy inroad to young
impressionable minds….”

23. At the same time, the Court is also cognizant of the concerns

relating to the ongoing pandemic and the hardships that may be

faced by the citizens. It may be noted that in the earlier judgment

of Anuradha Bhasin (supra) this Court had directed that, under

the usual course, every order passed under Rule 2(2) of the

Telecom Suspension Rules restricting the internet is to be placed

before a Review Committee which provides for adequate procedural

and substantive safeguards to ensure that the imposed restrictions

are narrowly tailored. However, we are of the view that since the

issues involved affect the State, and the nation, the Review

Committee which consists of only State level officers, may not be in

a position to satisfactorily address all the issues raised. We,

therefore, find it appropriate to constitute a Special Committee

comprising of the following Secretaries at national, as well as State,

level to look into the prevailing circumstances and immediately

determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions in

the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir:

a. The Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (Home Secretary),
Government of India.

b. The Secretary, Department of Communications, Ministry
of Communications, Government of India.

c. The Chief Secretary, Union Territory of Jammu and

The aforesaid Special Committee shall be headed by the Secretary,

Ministry of Home Affairs (Home Secretary), Government of India.

24. The Special Committee is directed to examine the contentions of,

and the material placed herein by, the Petitioners as well as the

Respondents. The aforesaid Committee must also examine the

appropriateness of the alternatives suggested by the Petitioners,

regarding limiting the restrictions to those areas where it is

necessary and the allowing of faster internet (3G or 4G) on a trial

basis over certain geographical areas and advise the Respondent

No. 1 regarding the same, in terms of our earlier directions.

25. The writ petitions are disposed of in the afore­stated terms.

Pending applications, if any, shall also stand disposed of. The

Registry is directed to communicate this order, along with a copy of

the paperbooks of the present petitions, to the aforesaid Special





MAY 11, 2020.



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