Internet Shutdowns in India |

Internet Shutdowns in India


GS2/Polity & Governance

In Context

∙ The Supreme Court questioned the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir about the non­publication of orders for the suspension of Internet services in the UT.


∙ In the past few years India had gone through several violence acts as a result of certain legislations by the Union Government such as The Citizenship Amendment Act, abrogation of Article 370 etc. which could have resulted in Internal Aggression.

∙ Due to which it becomes the need of the hour to shut down the internet services to maintain peace.

∙ It has become very common practice for law enforcement agencies and even for the Government to cut down the internet during the moment of tension.

Legal Provisions

∙ Till the year 2017, shutdowns were imposed largely under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). 

∙ Section 144 of CrPC gave the police and the District Magistrate the powers in order to prevent unlawful gathering of people and also to direct any person to abstain from a certain activity. 

∙ However, in 2017 the law was amended and the Government promulgated the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rule 2017.

∙ Under the 2017 Rules, telecom/internet shutdowns may be ordered on grounds of public emergency and public safety.  

∙ Public emergency and public safety have not been defined in the 1885 Act or the 2017 Rules. 

Arguments in Favour of Internet Shutdown by the Government

∙ National Security: The government may assert that suspending internet services is a temporary and targeted measure to prevent the spread of misinformation, coordinate unlawful activities, or address security threats.

∙ Preventing Unrest and Violence: Suspending online communication helps prevent the organization of protests, riots, or other forms of civil unrest.

∙ Counteracting Fake News and Disinformation: During times of crisis or conflict, false information circulating online can exacerbate tensions and contribute to misinformation.

∙ Temporary and Targeted Measures: Supporters may emphasize that internet shutdowns are intended to be temporary and narrowly focused.

∙ These measures are not meant to infringe on long-term access but rather to address specific and immediate concerns.

Arguments Against the Internet Shutdown by the Government

∙ Impact on Freedom of Expression: Internet shutdowns infringe upon the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. 

∙ Economic Disruptions: India has a rapidly growing digital economy, and internet shutdowns can lead to significant economic losses.

∙ The perception of frequent internet shutdowns may impact tourism and trade, as a stable and accessible digital environment is crucial for business operations and attracting visitors.

∙ Educational Challenges: With the increasing use of online platforms for education, internet shutdowns can severely affect students’ access to learning resources, online classes, and communication with teachers. 

∙ Healthcare Consequences: Access to healthcare information, telemedicine services, and health-related updates can be hampered during internet shutdowns. 

∙ Social and Political Implications: Internet shutdowns are often associated with attempts to control social unrest, protests, or political opposition.

∙ Critics argue that such measures can stifle democratic dissent and limit the right to peaceful assembly.

∙ Global Image and Investment: Frequent internet shutdowns can impact India’s global image, raising concerns among investors and international partners.

∙ A perceived lack of digital freedom and stability may deter foreign investments and collaborations.

∙ Human Rights Concerns: Critics assert that internet shutdowns raise human rights concerns, including the right to access information, freedom of speech, and the right to peaceful assembly. 

∙ Lack of Transparency: Some critics argue that the government needs to provide clear justifications for such actions and communicate transparently about the duration and reasons for the shutdown.

Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India Case:– In 2020 the Supreme Court by ruling on Jammu and Kashmir Internet shutdown held that indefinite internet shutdowns by the State is not permissible under Indian Constitution. – The apex Court further stated that imposition of Section144 can not be used as a mechanism to avoid genuine protest which is permitted under the Constitution. A. Section 144 has very specific parameters, only if those parameters are satisfied then only a Magistrate can pass the orders.– Key Highlights of the orders:A. Usage of the Internet is the Fundamental Right under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. Internet shutdowns can be of temporary period but not for indefinite period.C. Government to publish all orders imposing restrictions under Section 144.D. The Court had also said that any order with regard to Internet Shutdowns will come under Judicial Scrutiny.


∙ In a democracy Governments should provide a rationale for disrupting the internet services in a periodic manner. 

∙ The publications of all the orders must be made to maintain transparency.

∙ Indiscriminate shutdowns have high social and economic costs and are often ineffective. 

∙ A proportionality and necessity test analysis to determine the proper course of action are essential at this juncture. ∙ For better internet governance the Indian civil society needs to push for a transparent and accountable system.

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