DATA:

  • 95 Internet shutdowns announced in India in 2019, 167 areas impacted, according to the Internet Shutdown Tracker, a portal which tracks such incidents across the country.
  • Internet services have been suspended 357 times in India since 2014
  • 67 percent of the world's Internet shutdowns in 2018 were in India

RECENT JUDGEMENT

  • The Union government’s steps such as abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act have led to violent protests in parts of the country, forcing the administration to suspend Internet services to prevent rumour-mongering and thus prevent more violence.
  • In a landmark judgment, India’s Supreme Court said indefinite internet shutdowns violate the country’s laws concerning freedom of speech and expression. The government must pass an order describing the reason and duration of the shutdown each time it wishes to implement this action.
  • The bench said the internet is a major part of citizens’ rights that guarantee freedom of expression. It added the government can only shut down the internet as an extreme measure. Plus, such an order will draw judicial scrutiny.

LEGAL ASPECT:

  • Under Indian laws, the government can direct telecom companies to shut down services or take down sites, among other things.
  • In situations of public emergency or the interest of public safety the ‘Temporary suspension of Telecom Services Rules, 2017’ is invoked on a case-to-case basis and action is taken as per the procedure.
  • The government claims that the shutdown is always based on analysis of intelligence inputs and is subject to periodic review. This is a preventive measure used by the law & order administration as a last resort to address mass protests, civil unrest, so as to ensure peace
  • In the era of fast social media dissemination of information/misinformation, internet shutdown is resorted to in select areas to avoid the breakdown of law and order and possible damage to human life and public property.
  • Activists and researchers argue that this practice of shutting down the internet not just disrupts the smooth functioning of the state at large but is also not in line with the fundamentals of democracy. Internet shutdowns make human rights a hostage to the whims of the executive: the fundamental rights to speech, conduct business, access healthcare, express dissent, and movement of the people in a state, are compromised
  • Shutting the internet results in an information blackout that can also create hysteria, panic and can result in even more discord. Internet shutdown cannot be a solution to a larger governance problem.

ECONOMIC REPERCUSSIONS:

The Government has embarked upon a programme to deliver services through mobile and internet apart from promoting a cashless economy. In the absence of internet connectivity, access to various citizens is impacted. Further, neither banking transactions using credit and debit cards nor internet banking can be done, which leads to hardships to common citizens

 

Conclusion

Protests are an ‘essential dimension’ of mankind. In fact, they are intrinsic to human existence. In India, the right to protest, to publicly question and force the government to answer, is a fundamental political right of the people that flows directly from a democratic reading of Article 19. Hence, a government that promised ‘sabkasaath, sabkavikas, sabkavishwas’ should demonstrate its legitimacy by really listening to everyone provided that the protests are legit, peaceful and non-violent