censorship

Mobile internet services were banned in Haryana’s Sonipat district on Sunday following a call from the Jat community for reservations. Note that this is the seventh incident this year that mobile Internet services were shut down and the second instance in Haryana.

As part of the ban, 2G, 3G, 4G, Edge, GPRS and bulk SMS services were banned in the district, reports IANS. A state government spokesperson said that the block would be effective “till further orders were received.” The report added that the ban was enforced under Section 144 of the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) which allows local law administration to ban unlawful assembly and justify short bans on Internet services. Section 144 of the CrPC can usually be invoked by a district magistrate or the collector.

In February, State authorities in Haryana blocked mobile internet in certain districts after the Jat community’s protest asking for reservations turned violent. At the time, affected districts included Rohtak, Sonipat and Jhajjar.

In May, Internet services were shut down in Azamgarh district in Uttar Pradesh after communal tension broke out in the area. It is interesting to note that broadband services were hit too in Azamgarh. More on that here.

Internet shutdowns in India

June 4th 2016: Sonipat (Haryana)/unknown length of time/Mobile Internet and bulk SMS
– May 17th 2016: Azamgarh (UP)/unknown length of time/Wireline and Mobile Internet (link)
-April 18th 2016: Gujarat/3 days/Mobile Internet (link)
-April 16th 2016: Jharkhand/unknown length of time/Mobile Internet (link)
-April 14th 2016: Kashmir/1 day/Mobile Internet (link)
-February 28th 2016: Gujarat/4 hours/Mobile Internet (link)
February 19th 2016: Haryana/more than 1 day/Mobile Internet and SMS (link)
-December 20, 2015: Rajasthan/unknown/Mobile Internet (link)
-September 25th 2015: Jammu & Kashmir/2 days/Wireline and Mobile Internet (link)
-September 4th 2015: Manipur/2 days/Wireline and Mobile Internet (link)
-September 2nd 2015: Gujarat/ 1 week/Mobile Internet  (link)

Note: in case we’ve missed something, please feel free to let us know.

More mobile Internet bans to follow

As we had pointed out earlier, blanket bans on both mobile internet and broadband are quickly turning out to become the norm in the country as the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the districts and states’ right to ban mobile Internet services to maintain law and order. Internet bans should be allowed in the rarest exception.

In some instances, governments are using Section 144 of the CrPC to stop people cheating in exams. Where is the law and order situation in conducting an examination? The SC’s judgement sets a precedent for more mobile Internet bans in the country where administrations could call for a ban on services for arbitrary reasons. Perhaps it is time for all Internet companies and telecom operators to raise the issue with the TRAI and seek specific legislation against blanket Internet bans.

Image Credit: Flickr user Carolyn Tiry under CC BY-SA 2.0