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Supreme Court: The Court has reserved its order on a batch of petitions seeking restoration of 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir claiming the 2G service available in the Union Territory is not sufficient for education and business purposes amid the ongoing coronavirus-induced lockdown.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice NV Ramana said that it is taking into consideration all the issues in the matter and that it does not require any additional material in the case and said,

“We will pass appropriate orders in the case,”

During the hearing, attorney general KK Venugopal appearing for the Central government said that the orders that have been passed specifically stated that restrictions of internet speed are required for national security. Venugopal said that it’s about the protection of the lives of the entirety of the population of Jammu and Kashmir and not just the COVID-19 patients.

“Terrorists are being pushed into the country. Yesterday, there were some tragic events also. These men could easily take videos of the troop movements because they were trusted. The enemy could know the troop movements if they had 4G,”

The attorney general said that the petitions have to be examined against the larger public interest of national security, adding that national security is paramount and those tasked with protecting national security must be the sole judges in the matter.

“The matters of policy decision cannot be interfered with by the court. It must be left to the government,”

Lawyer Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the court that the COVID-19 situation in J&K has worsened and added that problems are being faced by doctors who cannot access necessary information about coronavirus treatment due to the internet speed. 75 doctors have also made a representation flagging the same concerns.

Justice Ramana said that the government is saying the people can rely on the landline broadband connection, to which Ahmadi responded by saying
broadband connections account for less than one percent of the total internet connections in J&K.

“There are around approximately 1 lakh 32 thousand broadband landline connections in J&K, but more than one crore phone/internet connections. The total number of broadband connections in J&K account for less than 1 percent of the total internet connections,”

Justice BR Gavai said,

the numbers are not in dispute but it’s a legal question of balance and the government is raising security concerns.

Justice Ramana said that the Central government is claiming that there has been a surge in terrorist activities and they have collaborated via 4G. Ahmadi
responded by saying that the terrorist activities were more in the 1990s when there was no internet at all.

Ahmadi submitted that the Centre is arguing that the national security may be compromised, but they have not been able to show any direct nexus in the case.

“Let them open internet speeds for a week and see if there is any nexus with terrorism.”

Senior lawyer Salman Khurshid, appearing for another petitioner in the matter, said that private schools are under government directions to provide education
via video-conferencing.

“We have an obligation under the Right to Education to provide education”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the Central government had started with a complete lockdown and then brought in relaxations by allowing movement, followed by landline and then 2G internet services.

Notably, internet services were suspended in J&K in August last year after the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two Union
Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir . While the 2G services on postpaid mobile phones and broadband have been restored, 4G services still remain suspended.

(Source: ANI)

Business NewsNews

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on technical knowledge sharing for establishing a nationwide Time Stamping & Time Synchronization network and traceability of time signal to UTC NPL time, was signed between Council of Scientific and Industrial Research -National Physical Laboratory (CSIRNPL) and Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Ministry of Communications. The nationwide time stamping & time synchronization network consisting of 22 numbers of Time Synchronization Centers (TSC’s) will be set up by DoT with technical assistance from CSIR-NPL. This network will provide synchronizing pulse in Indian Standard Time (IST) to all telecom & internet service providers in all the 22 LSA (Licensed Service Areas) in the country. The primary purpose of synchronizing the telecom network with IST time stamp is to enable the security agencies to overcome the difficulty in analyzing and correlating the cyber events in this era of greatly increasing network speed with advancement of telecom technology (2G to 3G to 4G to 5G etc.). The implementation of the project will also improve the telecom network efficiency by reducing packet loss due to reduced slips in better synchronized digital network. The time set on Indian telecom networks should be in IST zone to uniquely identify the user (subscriber) of network on tracing of the IP address and other parameters. Presently, Telecom Service Provider (TSP)/Internet Service Provider (ISP) are taking the reference time from different sources viz., GPS from GNSS. These sources do not have the traceability with IST. “Telecom Networks” need to be in IST time zone synchronized with CSIR-National Physical Laboratory (CSIRNPL) – the keeper of IST. The technologies developed by CSIR and its laboratories are of high value to Indian stakeholders, they be industry/government departments and ministries. After establishment & implementation of a PAN India time synchronization and time stamping across the Indian telecom network, all the network of the TSP/ISPs will be traceable with the IST, which will eliminate the problem of the time synchronization among the TSP/ISPs. This will lead to better efficiency of telecom network and reduce the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) call drop, improve the quality of service of the network, voice, video. The time standardization will help to curb cyber crimes and will also help to identify and correlate the various digital financial transactions. Accuracy of the time depends upon the distance between the TSC (reference source) and the location of the TSP/ISP centres. Therefore, stratum-1 time synchronization centre shall be established at all the 22 LSAs across the country.

Ministry of Science and Technology

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Refusing to interfere with the principle of capping adopted in the Notice Inviting Application-2015 (NIA) for allocation of spectrums in various areas, the Court said that the condition to put a cap and make a classification not allowing certain entities to bid is not an arbitrary one as it is based on the acceptable rationale of serving the cause of public interest. It was further said that in the matters relating to complex auction procedure having enormous financial ramification, interference by the Courts based upon any perception which is thought to be wise or assumed to be fair can lead to a situation which is not warrantable and may have unforeseen adverse impact.

The petitioners had argued that the NIA had stipulated capping and simultaneously allowed certain categories to bid for a lesser quantum to which the respondents had responded that the reason behind the same was that a minimum spectrum is determined to enhance the efficiency and capability of the service providers so that the arrangement can be beneficial to the consumers and they can avail requisite benefit and have better service. The licensees who do not have the specific quantum can bid for the balance so that the efficiency of service is enhanced. Accepting the reasoning of the respondents, the Court said that if a minimum is provided for a particular area or zone having regard to the necessity and the interest of the consumers, it subserves the larger public interest. The said stipulation might have affected the individual interest of certain categories of licensees or aspirants but that cannot weigh over the public interest.

Regarding the contention that some bidders have not been allowed to participate in respect of certain areas, the bench of Dipak Misra and P.C.Pant, JJ said that it has been done to curtail the monopoly and to encourage a broad based competition and further to allow certain entities who do not have the adequate spectrum so that there is augmentation of revenue as well as enhancement of efficiency in providing the service. It is a policy decision which subserves the consumers’ interest and it is extremely difficult to say that the decision to conduct the auction in such a manner can be considered to be mala fide or based on extraneous considerations. [Reliance Telecom Ltd. v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 36, decided on 12.01.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter where the validity of the Telecom Consumers Protection (Ninth Amendment) Regulations, 2015 was in question, the Court held that the Impugned Regulation is ultra vires the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 (TRAI Act) and violative of fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

The impugned Regulation states that every originating service provider who provides cellular mobile telephone services is made liable to credit only the calling consumer (and not the receiving consumer) with one rupee for each call drop (as defined), which takes place within its network, upto a maximum of three call drops per day. The Delhi High Court had upheld the said Regulation and held that the Impugned Regulation has attempted to balance the interest of service providers by limiting call drops to be compensated to only three and by limiting compensation to only the calling and not the receiving consumer. The Court said that the High Court’s order was flawed as a penalty that is imposed without any reason either as to the number of call drops made being 3, and only to the calling consumer, far from balancing the interest of consumers and service providers, is manifestly arbitrary, not being based on any factual data or reason.

Considering the fact that the Quality of Service Regulation, 2009 provides for a call drop rate of 2% averaged over a period of one month, the Court held that it was unable to appreciate the reasoning given by the High Court when it said that 2% is a quality parameter for the entire network as opposed to payment of compensation to an individual consumer. The Court further said that the Regulation, in assuming that every call drop is a deficiency of service on the part of the service provider, is plainly incorrect and hence, unconstitutional. [CELLULAR OPERATORS ASSOCIATION OF INDIA v. TELECOM REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF INDIA, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 486, decided on 11.05.2016]