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Supreme court upholds states’ right to ban mobile Internet services

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The Supreme Court of India upheld the districts and states’ right to ban mobile Internet services to maintain law and order, reports the Economic Times. Earlier in 2015, the Gujarat government had banned mobile Internet usage in the wake of the protests by the Patel community for reservation.

During the time, the police invoked Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) that allows local law administration to ban unlawful assembly and justify short bans on Internet services. This was challenged in court by student-activist Gaurav Sureshbhai Vyas and represented by lawyer Apar Gupta.

However, a bench of comprising of chief justice of India TS Thakur and Justice R Banumathi, dismissed it saying “It becomes very necessary sometimes for law and order.”

Gupta contended that Section 144 of the CrPC comes under general law and that there were already provisions in the Indian Telegraph Act which prescribes the government can block specific sites. Gupta argued that a blanket ban on Internet services was not justified.

Vyas’ petition also argued that the ban on mobile Internet services was irrational as broadband players were kept out of its ambit. The petition also said that the ban infringes on Freedom of expression.

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Also read: HTTP 451 error code now the standard for legally blocked content and  On Internet bans in India and the “Internet kill switch”

Other mobile Internet bans

Over the last year, there have been several bans on mobile Internet to maintain law and order by many state governments.

– In December 2015, the Rajasthan police banned the usage of mobile internet for an indefinite period following communal clashes in the districts of Nagaur, Dungarpur, Udaipur, Bhilwara and other parts of the state. The police again invoked Section 144 of the CrPC.

– Apart from the ban due to the Patel community agitations, Gujarat government blocked mobile Internet services in Godhra again in September following derogatory messages against Islam which were circulated on WhatsApp.

– Jammu and Kashmir suspended Internet services for two days following apprehensions of violence in the state in light of the beef ban in the state.

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– In Manipur, there was a shut down the mobile Internet services following three bills which were passed which would infringe on the rights of tribals in the state.

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