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Mobile internet blocked in Kashmir on Republic Day but no order made public

Government order for shutting down the Internet in Kashmir was not made public, in violation of guidelines laid down by Supreme Court

Mobile internet was shutdown across all districts of Kashmir early morning yesterday, Aakash Hassan an independent reporter in the valley confirmed to MediaNama. While the internet was restored by 4PM, no official order regarding the same was made public by the J&K Home department. Meanwhile fixed line and phone services were not impacted, Hassan said.

Attempts by MediaNama to contact the Inspector General of Police and the Principal Home Secretary of the State went unanswered. In its 2020 judgement in the Anuradha Bhasin case challenging the internet shutdown in the State, the Supreme Court had laid down that all internet shutdown orders need to be made accessible to the public so that they may be challenged.

In the judgement, the apex court had also held that internet was crucial as a medium to exercise fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.

“We declare that the freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(1)(g),” the judgement said.

What are the legal provisions for internet shutdowns?

Apart from asking that shutdown orders be made public, the SC had also ordered that the shutdowns be implemented keeping in mind proportionality, and should not extend beyond the duration necessary. Subsequently the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules passed in November 2020 laid down provisions for

  • Only the Secretary of the State (independently or under instruction from the Secretary under Ministry of Home Affairs) to order internet shutdowns.
  • 15 days of validity for such an order at a time
  • Formation of review committee after the internet suspension

The most recent internet shutdowns in India

On January 13th, internet services were shutdown in Itanagar district, Arunachal Pradesh for 48 hours after a youth association declared a State-wide ‘Bandh’.

In December 2021 mobile internet and bulk SMS services were restored in the Mon district of Nagaland after over 12 hours of shutdown, amidst violence in the area

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In October 2021, the Uttar Pradesh government ordered a shutdown of internet services in the Lakhimpur Kheri and Sitapur districts, in the wake of violence that broke out during a farmers’ protest.
In September 2021, internet services were restricted in Kashmir, after the death of a separatist leader.
The same month, Rajasthan government suspended internet and SMS services in 5 districts to curb cheating during the REET 2021 exams.

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Written By

I cover health technology for MediaNama but, really, love all things tech policy. Always willing to chat with a reader! Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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