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Airtel, Vodafone Idea confirm government ordered internet suspensions in parts of Delhi NCR

Update on December 20: People in parts of Delhi complained about an internet shutdown today, even though the official order for suspending internet services was to be adhered to till 1 pm on December 19. Twitter user Kishi Arora said that there was no internet service in East Delhi at 4 am, due to government orders. Interestingly, per the official circular which surfaced yesterday, East Delhi wasn’t a part of the areas that telecom operators had to ban mobile internet in.

A resident of East Delhi’s Vivek Vihar told MediaNama that there was an internet outage in the area between 8 am to 11 am, and that “it was so scary”.

Internet services in the Ghaziabad area were also snapped at 10 pm on December 19, for 24 hours. Multiple people took to Twitter to complain about the internet shutdown in the area. Telecom operator Jio told its customers in Ghaziabad that internet services have been temporarily stopped in their area, according to news agency PTI.

Earlier on December 19: Airtel and Vodafone Idea have both confirmed that the government has ordered an internet shutdown along with voice and SMS service suspension in parts of Delhi NCR.  Twitter users have complained about the shutdown pertaining to the ITO, New Seelampur area, and the India Gate area. The Delhi police’s old headquarters are located in the ITO area, while the New Seelampur area saw protests erupt against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act yesterday.

Airtel, in a tweet, confirmed that voice, internet and SMS services were currently suspended, following instructions from government authorities. Vodafone Idea also confirmed to MediaNama that an internet shutdown has been ordered in parts of Delhi NCR.

Suspension of internet, voice and SMS services has been ordered in the following areas of New Delhi: Walled city areas of north and central areas of the districts, Mandi House, Seelampur, Jaffarbad, Mustafabad, Jamia Nagar, Shaeen Bagh and Bawana, according to ANI. Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Cell, PS Kushwah ordered the suspension which is expected to last from 9 am to 1 pm on December 19.

However, Srinivas Kodali, an independent researcher said that the suspension ordered by the Deputy Commissioner of Police is illegal. “Telecom operators will have to report their compliance regarding the ban. The internet can only be suspended in emergencies by an order under temporary suspension of telecom services rules of 2017. It only allows official higher than joint secretary in home department to give these orders. The deputy commissioner has no power to shut internet down,” Kodali said. It is also unclear why an order to ban communication services is “Top Secret”.

https://twitter.com/Airtel_Presence/status/1207547468247732224

Vodafone Idea also tweeted confirming a “planned outage [of internet services] scheduled as per government directive,” but deleted the tweet soon after that. Airtel also seems to be deleting its earlier tweets confirming the shutdown.

Internet Freedom Foundation’s (IFF) Apar Gupta explains the legality of internet shutdowns: 

This is a developing story. Watch this space for further updates.

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