A war of words broke out between MPs of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress on Thursday over whether a Standing Committee on Information and Technology could discuss the issue of internet shut downs in Jammu and Kashmir since the issue pertains to national security, people familiar with the matter said.
The BJP MPs, the people cited above said, pointed out that it was a law-and-order issue and the local administration was answerable for measures taken to prevent any tension on the ground.
“Officials of the MHA and telecom ministry who were present for the committee hearing told the panel that they were not sure whether the recently amended guideline of a 15-day outer period for Internet shutdowns is still applicable,” one of the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this month, the Union government issued a gazette notification, inserting Rule 2A into the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 that states “the suspension order issued by the competent authority under sub-rule (1) shall not be in operation for more than fifteen days.”
A second member said that the panel will soon present a draft report on Internet suspension.
Meanwhile, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, who is also a member of the IT panel, has written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla complaining that the panel chairperson Shashi Tharoor has been using the platform of Parliamentary committee for “parochial political purposes.”
In his letter, Dubey said that Tharoor had suo motu selected a subject of suspension of telecom services/ internet and its impact for detailed examination notwithstanding the fact that other members of the committee had strongly objected to this. HT has seen a copy of the letter.
Dubey said that Tharoor issued summons to the Union home secretary, to appear before the panel for an oral evidence on November 25. “The fact of the matter is that the union home Ministry has already stated the legal position before the committee in its earlier sitting held on October 16, 2020. But calling the union secretary on the already settled issue indicates that either Dr Shashi Tharoor is suffering from acute amnesia, or he still ‘tossing a coin’ for getting some cheap publicity by discussing an issue of national importance – having wider security implications/ramifications,” the letter says.
Tharoor was not immediately available for comment on the matter.