Mobile internet shutdown in Kashmir on Republic Day

Mobile internet was cut in all districts of Kashmir early morning yesterday, Aakash Hassan, a freelance journalist from the valley, confirmed to MediaNama. While the internet was restored at 4 p.m., no official order on the matter has been made public by the J&K Home department. Meanwhile, landline and telephone services were unaffected, Hassan said.

Attempts by MediaNama to contact the Inspector General of Police and the state’s top interior minister went unanswered. In its 2020 ruling in the Anuradha Bhasin case challenging the internet shutdown in the state, the Supreme Court ruled that all internet shutdown orders must be made available to the public so that they can be challenged.

In the judgment, the Supreme Court had also ruled that the Internet was crucial as a means of exercising fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.

“We declare that freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice any profession or to carry on any trade, business or occupation through the medium of the Internet are constitutionally protected under section 19( 1)(a) and section 19(1)(g),” the judgment stated.

What are the legal provisions for internet shutdowns?

In addition to calling for shutdown orders to be made public, the SC had also ordered that shutdowns be implemented with proportionality in mind and should not extend beyond the necessary duration. Subsequently, the rules for the temporary suspension of telecommunications services adopted in November 2020 made provisions for

  • Only the Secretary of State (independently or on instructions from the Secretary of the Home Office) can order internet shutdowns.
  • 15 days validity for such an order at a time
  • Formation of review board after Internet suspension

The latest internet shutdowns in India

January 13, internet services were shut down in Itanagar district, Arunachal Pradesh for 48 hours after a youth association declared a statewide ‘Bandh’.

In December 2021 Mobile internet and bulk texting services have been restored in Nagaland’s Mon district after more than 12 hours of shutdown, amid violence in the area

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

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