The government yesterday restored voice, SMS, and 2G mobile internet services in Kashmir Valley, except in Pulwama and Shopian districts. Voice, SMS, and internet services were suspended in Kashmir on May 6, after Hizbul Mujahideen militant Riyaz Naikoo was killed along with his aide in a gun battle in Pulwama’s Awantipora village. The J&K administration’s order cites increase in terror-related incidents and prevailing security situation to suspended mobile services. The order even states that 2G internet does not cause any impediment in taking measures concerning control of COVID-19.

The order will remain effective until May 27. Jammu & Kashmir has spent the all the three phases of the nationwide lockdown on 2G speeds, with even that being suspended multiple times across Kashmir valley. The administration had extended 2G services for another two weeks on April 28, until May 11.

The Supreme Court yesterday directed the Central government to constitute a “special committee” headed by the Union Home Secretary to ascertain whether it’s necessary to continue restrictions on the internet in Jammu & Kashmir. The court made the direction in response to a batch of petitions asking for restoration of 4G services in The committee will be headed by the Union Home Secretary, and also include the Union Communications Secretary, and chief secretary of Jammu & Kashmir.

The court directed the committee to:

  • examine the issues raised by the petitioners, as well as the government’s responses.
  • examine how appropriate the alternatives suggested by the petitioners are, such as limiting restrictions only to areas where it is necessary, and allowing 3G or 4G speeds on a trial basis in certain geographical areas

The ‘special committee’ is effectively a replacement of the Review Committee under the Telecom Suspension (or Internet Shutdowns) Rules under the Telegraph Act. The review committee consists of state level officials to review internet shutdown orders passed by a state. For orders passed by the Central government, central level officials, including the Union Home Secretary, are part of the committee.

2G internet was allowed in the union territory after a 7-month communications blackout by the Indian government, following the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year. Mobile internet services were restored in the union territory at 2G speeds last month. Even this came after multiple whitelists allowing a limited number of websites — up to 1,600 per the last whitelist — were issued, upon the Supreme Court’s direction. Prepaid connections are allowed, but will require the kind of KYC verification usually done for postpaid connections.