Internet Shutdowns in India: Legality and Constitutional Validity
Written By: Kaushik Baroliya
Table of Contents
With our increasing reliance on the internet in our daily activities, its role within digital technology is nothing short of a requirement. The internet has become an important medium for communicating our thoughts and feelings. There are various modes of communication, such as social media platforms, email services, and instant messaging applications. However, the reach and accessibility of internet connectivity are irreplaceable, providing us with an unprecedented level of convenience and efficiency. As such, it is essential that we ensure the security and privacy of our digital communication, using keywords such as encryption, two-factor authentication, and virtual private networks (VPNs) to protect our online activities from cyber threats and malicious actors. By adopting these measures, we can continue to benefit from the many advantages of the internet while safeguarding our personal information and digital identity
Regardless of the effects of the internet shutdown on the country’s financial system and human social life, administrations in an increasing number of Indian states have used this method. Section 144 of the CrPC authorizes the kingdom government to shut down the internet in order to maintain public peace and calm. ‘Access Now’ , an corporation to monitor internet shutdowns said that India ranks at the top among st countries with the most internet shutdowns accounting for 134 of the 196 shutdowns in 2018 around the world and Freedom law Centre, a Delhi based totally software reviews 91 shutdowns in 2019.
A Struggle between fundamental rights and Section 144
These days, many essential rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution in large part exercised via internet. There ought to be an equilibrium between the essential rights of individuals and the maintenance of law and order. The rights to express one’s opinion is assured by the constitution of India under Article 19(1)(a) and may be constrained below Article 19(2) most effective if there may be a risk or apprehension of threat. This danger should now not be far flung, conjectural or some distance-fetched, however have a proximate and direct nexus with the expression sought to be limited.
The extensive powers are given to magistrate under section 144 of CrPC call for cautions even as the exercising of power. It’s miles the responsibility of authorities to take reasonable steps due to its extensive results on essential rights enshrined by using the Indian constitution. these fundamental rights cannot be curbed unreasonably and for a disproportional period. The three-component take a look at of legality, legitimacy, and proportionality wishes to be fulfilled.
Internet shutdown fails the proportionality test. That is because the authorities have stopped being indiscriminate in both (i) who they target and (ii) how they seek to do that. Internet disconnection within a certain area makes no discrimination between lawbreakers and completely innocent people. In the same way, an outright ban on the internet is unrealistic. Proportionality is the method through which the reason intended to be completed equilibrium is achieved. To protect people’ fundamental rights, the “least damaging approach” or “minimum impairment” must be used. As a result, the restriction under Article 19(2) is arbitrary because it fails to circumvent the proportionality test, and one of these blanket prohibitions cannot be enforced.
Additionally, using a provision in arbitrary style hampers the right to exchange and profession. In this modern era, the whole thing is attached to the net, from reserving cabs to avail of health center offerings. shifting forward, I would like to bring your interest to the Kashmir internet Shutdown case, which was an attempt to challenge the net shutdown.
A Critical Analysis of Kashmir Internet Shutdown in 2019
With the repeal of Article 370 of the Indian constitution and the loss of its statehood, the government shut down internet services in Kashmir on August 5, 2019. At the same time, the government cut off all cell and landline communications and imprisoned people and political leaders. Other than totalitarian regimes such as China, the shutdown was the longest ever imposed in a democratic country, lasting 134 days without information. On 10th January 2020, the Supreme court reviewed the suspension of internet services and stated that shut down in this manner is “impermissible”. The supreme court held that “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) and restrictions should be in consonance with Article 19 (2) and (6) of the Constitution, inclusive of the test of proportionality”.
Aftermath, the authorities restored 2G internet connectivity in the area.
The government justified the shutdown stating that violent tactics could have been erupted within the state due to the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution . however the issue here is that other mediums which includes newspapers, Bluetooth, and many others. can also be used to propagate news and opinion which might also have the capability to disturb public peace. however, i am now not defending such fake news, but the authorities must need to comprehend that there are other elements other than the usage of the internet for social media and its consequences on fundamental rights.
The phrase of mouth has been sufficient in spreading incorrect information in a small valley which serves as a goal in opposition to authorities justification for oppressing the opinions of human beings. the solution for this hassle lies in the right implementation of section 69(A) of the IT Act having a limited ban at the internet rather than shutting down the complete internet. section 69(A) may be used to block the ones particular websites and connections that are potential disturbers of the public peace as it become carried out throughout the communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar in 2013.
The internet shutdown has large effects on the civil and legal rights of people. As said via the apex court of India section 144 and limit on free speech used to be imposed handiest whilst there’s no alternative to be had. The effectiveness of the internet shutdowns has now not been palpable and confirmed via the government; its negative affects have been properly evident and feature distasteful impacts on the monetary and political situation of the country .
The ramifications were largely pessimistic which needs attention from the government authorities to rethink the coverage to internet suspension. The government need to look forward to the least invasive measures and train its police with technical capabilities to research cybercrimes to seize the perpetrators in preference to enforcing sweep bans.