SC rejects plea seeking free calls, data usage during COVID-19 lockdown

The plea had sought directions to the Centre and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to ask the DTH service providers to allow free and unlimited viewing facility during lockdown

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The Supreme Court on Monday (April 27) refused to entertain a plea seeking directions to the Centre and other authorities to ensure that free unlimited calling, data usage and DTH facilities are provided to the subscribers to ease “psychological stress” during the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“What kind of petitions are being filed?”, observed a bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, S.K. Kaul and B.R. Gavai which was hearing the plea through video-conferencing.

The petitioner, advocate Manohar Pratap, told the bench that he would withdraw the plea, which also sought a direction to the health ministry to take appropriate steps to deal with psychological pressure mounting on individuals due to the lockdown or being kept in quarantine.

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The plea had sought directions to the Centre and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to invoke relevant terms of agreement of licenses granted to DTH service providers and ask them to provide completely free and unlimited viewing facility of their channels and contents during lockdown, which has been extended till May 3.

It said the authorities should also be directed to exercise powers under appropriate provisions of law so that content of video streaming websites could be provided free of cost during lockdown.

The petition had said that social interactions by way of talking over phone, video calling and other modes of digital entertainment like watching TV channels on DTH platforms or contents on video streaming websites could be helpful in “lowering the psychological stress” caused by confinement during lockdown.

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It had said that unlimited free audio and video communication means would allow stranded persons, who are away from their family, to contact them and it would help in dealing with present situation.

It had said that free and unlimited access to internet and satellite TV channels would offer better and wide mode of entertainment to individuals who are confined in home or in quarantine facilities.