Even as the Rajasthan High Court issues notice (pdf) to the state government in a case challenging internet shutdowns, the state government has imposed Sec 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Gwalior; another district, Bhind, is considering shutting the internet down in the run up to Dalit protests scheduled on Thursday. News18 reported the district governments’ response. Sec 144 allows the police to significantly restrict the freedom of assembly and protest in an area. The protests in question are against a Supreme Court judgement that increased the burden of proof on members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes before they could file police reports on discrimination and atrocities against them.
Rajasthan has the highest number of internet shutdowns in the country after Jammu & Kashmir. In the last few weeks, internet services were cut off at least thrice over the span of three weeks to prevent cheating in a written exam to recruit police. 26 shutdowns have already been ordered in the state this year alone, which is over a fourth of all shutdowns in India this year.
Internet shutdown rule challenged in Parliament
Internet shutdowns are ordered under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, 2017, under the Telegraph Act. The rule enables state and central governments to order suspension of internet services “due to public emergency or public safety”. The rule was notified in August 2017; internet shutdowns have rapidly been increasing in the last two-three years. There were a total of 31 reported internet shutdowns in 2016 and 93 in 2018 already. The rule was challenged by Rajya Sabha MP Husain Dalwai on July 31 in the Monsoon Session of Parliament, which will last till August 10. Dalwai has called for annulment of the rule; it has to be admitted for discussion in the Rajya Sabha for it to be actually annulled.
Prior to this, the most recent reported internet shutdown took place in Arunachal Pradesh on July 29; internet services were terminated intermittently throughout the day to prevent cheating in the state public service commission examinations. In Manipur, internet services were terminated for five days following confrontation between civilians, members of Manipur University Students’ Union and the police. On July 25, internet was banned in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district and adjoining areas after an encounter broke out between the Army and militants, according to Brighter Kashmir.