“Internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir is no longer sub judice” says Shashi Tharoor in response to Speaker’s advisory

Congress lawmaker and Politician Shashi Tharoor as well the chairperson of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology (IT) has recently captivated Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla’s attention towards the issue of Internet shutdowns in Jammu & Kashmir.

He said, “It is no longer subjudice and thus taking it up for discussion is not in contravention of rules.”

He focussed on the urgency to prevent misuse of social and online news media portal. He added about summoning Facebook’s representatives regarding this very concern.

Tharoor said, “the panel would like to hear an explanation from the social media company about a Wall Street Journal report this month. Facebook’s India policy head, Ankhi Das is opposing about applying hate-speech rules to a BJP politician whose posts targeted Muslims.”

As per new report by Wall Street Journal Das praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating him as the “strongman” who had broken and condemned the Congress’ socialist domination. The comments were posted in a Facebook group designed for employees in India but it was made open to a global audience.

The House was divided on Facebook executives to explain the report. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Nishikant Dubey who is a panel member as well  remarked that Tharoor cannot call Facebook to seek an explanation because the House rules are different on these matters. He cited Rule 269 and explained that the secretary-general has the power to summon.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on the other hand supported Tharoor’s decision to call Facebook for an explanation. Joining the queue Communist Party of India CPI (Marxist) has demanded a criminal investigation into the matter.

Birla had written about it to the chairpersons of all parliamentary panels and asked them to look upon these in line with Parliamentary rules and conventions, which include not taking up subjects pending before courts.

A letter to Birla last week disclosed by Hindustan Times where Shashi Tharoor addressed various points the speaker has highlighted. He wrote about the Internet shutdowns in Jammu & Kashmir and also referred to the Supreme Court’s judgment of 11 May as well as the dismissal of contempt petition that followed to mark his point.

On August 11, The Centre told the Supreme Court, “restrictions on 4G mobile internet will get relaxation in one district each of Jammu and Kashmir divisions of the Union Territory after August 15 on a trial basis.”

The decision came on the recommendations made of special committee composed on the top court’s May 11 directive to the Centre to review restrictions on high-speed mobile internet.

The Supreme Court was hearing a petition filed in June by the Foundation for Media Professionals which is a non-government organisation trying to seek start of contempt proceedings against the Centre and Jammu & Kashmir administration for failure to obey with the top court’s May 11.

Direction were given to review restrictions on mobile internet speeds in the Union Territory where people are only able to access 2G services.

On August 11, the top court applauded the stand taken by the Centre and closed the contempt case.

With reference to the Facebook issue said, “under the topic of “Safeguarding citizens’ rights & prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms” summoning the social media company representatives is within his mandate.”

The agenda of a panel is pre-approved by and bulletenised by the Speaker before it meets.

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