Under the Digital India program, it is the highest priority of the government to provide the fluent and unhindered internet services. According to the reports of the center of technology and innovation at the Brookings Institute, India and Iraq have witnessed the maximum number of government-mandated shutdowns of internet access.
The case of internet shutdowns is increasing in India. The government is curbing down the internet as the easy go-to solution for maintaining law and order in situations of protest emanating from the recently passed citizenship amendment act and Ayodhya dispute verdict etc. these curbing of the internet freedom is an example of failure of the right of freedom of speech given to the citizen of India by the Indian constitution. Further, the curbing the internet usage in the time of high emanating protests can lead to additional multidimensional adverse effects.
as reported by the software freedom law center (SFLC), India has seen over 256 cases of internet shutdowns since 2012 and among these 256 incidents, 107 cases were registered in the year 2018 itself.
Related Internet Shutdown Laws
- Temporary suspension of the telecom services (public emergency or public safety) Rules, 2017, gives authorities like home departments of the states, liberty to some extent to draw powers from the Indian constitution to curb down internet services.
- Now, the power of dealing with issues like internet shutdowns is vested in the hands of the secretary of the union government, secretary of the state government.
- The recent shutdowns of the internet that have been reported, draws the authority form Section 144 of the code of criminal procedure,1973. This law was used to legalize the many internet shutdown incidents before the telecom suspension rules actually came into force in 2017.
- Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act,1885 enables the government of center and state to protect the transmission of the messages in the time of public emergency or for public safety. The law can also be implemented in cases to ensure the sovereignty and integrity of India.
- Information technology Act, which is India’s principal information technology sector law, gives limited power to the authorities to issue the blocking order for individual web content, in spite of regulating the longer suspension of the interest itself.
Arguments Against Internet shutdown
Curbing Free Speech:
In view of the recent internet shutdowns that have been observed by the countries, many arguments that claim the feasibility of the internet shutdowns came on the light. some major argument has been listed here.
- It is the argument that freedom of speech and expression has been provided by the Indian constitution. the freedom of expression comes under the basic rights given to the citizens of India and banning the internet is a practice to curb this basic right given to the citizens. the government of Indian according to the constitution is a trustee and custodian that is responsible to take forward the values of the Indian constitution. The constitutionalism rests limited powers in the hands of the government.
- the freedom of speech is secured in article 19(1)(a) of the Indian constitution.
In Shreya Singhal’s judgment, the supreme court recognized the internet as an important medium to live our constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.
- In Sakal papers judgment, the supreme court, reserved their verdict to allow the circulation of any newspaper. they stated that no state policy has the freedom the cut down the circulation of the newspaper. If any such program is found in the existence and it will directly hamper the rights of freedom of expression.
- it is a point that needs to be noticed that these days, publishing newspapers is not possible without having access to the internet, so shutting down internet services directly contradicts the mentioned judgment. so, it directly transgresses the freedom of speech.
- According to the SFLC, the total internet shutdown results in the collective loss of around 16,00 hours that leads to a loss of $3 billion for the Indian economy.
- The E-commerce sector is primarily based on the internet.and its shutdown results in a big loss in the gig industry(ola, uber, tomato, Swiggy, etc).
- the internet has become an integral part of the majority of the people now, its slowdown and banning impacts the life of masses vigorously.
- Internet shutdown will also result in the failures of mobile-based services like mobile banking, health, education sector, etc.
- The people trapped in the midst of riots are unable to send word to their family and friends.
Reasons stated for Internet Shutdown
While thinking from the government’s point of view, the reasons for the internet shutdowns can be many. here some of the major reasons are written that justifies the shutdown the internet services over an area.
- To stop the spreading of fake news
usually, internet shutdowns are used in the area where civil unrest is observed. the intention of shutting down the internet is to obstruct the flowing of fake news in the affected area. this action results in the blockage of communication between activists that further leads to the prevention in the flow of rumors and false news.
- As an early management trick by sensing the future riot possibilities
the internet shutdown is also used when there is a great possibility of violent riots and protest by the masses in large numbers against the government. this situation happens when a government takes some decisive action that doesn’t match with the ideology of a big number of people.
- To ensure the interest of the nation
when it is observed that some anti-national messages and media are hauling over the internet in the big numbers which are posing a great threat to national sovereignty and security, then the internet services are terminated by the government for a fixed interval of time.
The national and state security is essential in order to exercise the personal laws of freedom. so to ensure the security of the state and nation, the government is justified to some extents but while implementing this the righteousness should not be under-rated. a standard set by the Indian constitution that gives some basic rights to every human being should not be violated.
it is the duty of the government to justify their actions in front of the people of India.