Closure of mobile internet services in Lakhimpur Kheri district (Uttar Pradesh)

In what is yet another case where Indian authorities are restricting basic rights, the government of Uttar Pradesh has ordered the shutdown of internet services in Lakhimpur Kheri district. Although the Office of the Additional Chief Secretary of the Interior Ministry confirmed the order to MediaNama, it did not provide details such as the extent of restricted services, time period, etc., because ” the order was passed overnight ”.

Last year, while hearing pleadings challenging the restrictions imposed on Jammu and Kashmir after the repeal of Section 370, the Supreme Court declared internet access a basic right. He further asked magistrates approving Internet shutdown orders to “be reflective” and “follow the doctrine of proportionality.” India has experienced the highest number of internet outages in the world, with 109 out of 155 net outages worldwide in 2020, according to an Access Now report.

Telecom operators warned customers last night

MediaNama has learned that messages from telecom operators informing customers of the Internet shutdown were sent to those in the neighborhood on the evening of October 3. This proves that mobile internet services have been restricted in the region.

However, it is not clear whether broadband services have also been restricted in the district and whether internet services have been restricted for the entire district or only for some of its parts, as various reports indicate in the media. At the time of filing this report, MediaNama could not find an order from the state government to shut down the Internet.

Laws governing Internet shutdowns

According to an amendment to the rules for the temporary suspension of telecommunications services adopted in November 2020, Internet shutdown orders can only be valid for 15 days at a time. Only the Secretary of State (independently or at the direction of the Secretary of the Home Office) can order Internet shutdowns in accordance with rules that also require due process, such as the formation of a review committee after Internet suspension.

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Last year, the Supreme Court ruling in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India has established that state governments will also have to make public internet shutdown orders.

Latest Internet shutdowns in India

  • In September, internet services have been restricted in Kashmir, after the death of a separatist leader.
  • In the same month, mobile internet services, including 4G, have been suspended in at least 3 districts of Haryana in view of the Kisan Mahapanchayat in Karnal.
  • September also saw Rajasthan government suspends internet and SMS services in 5 districts to fight cheating during REET 2021 exams.
  • In August, Internet services were banned in Shillong and four neighboring districts of Sikkim after violence erupted in the state following the death of a suspected activist.
  • In March, Internet services were suspended in Bhainsa, a town north of Telangana, following intercommunity clashes.
  • The Home Office ordered telecommunications operators to shut down internet services in Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur in January of this year, to “maintain public safety and avoid public emergency” amidst the farmers’ protest. Internet was suspended in these areas from January 29 at 11 p.m. until January 31 at 11 p.m. Telecom sources confirmed to MediaNama that they had received the order from the Interior Ministry.

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