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Report: India recorded longest Internet Shutdowns globally in 2023

Why is it in the news?

  • According to a report by the Virtual Private Network tracker ‘Top 10VPN,’ India experienced the longest internet shutdowns globally in 2023.
  • The report revealed that the internet was completely inaccessible for a staggering 7,956 hours, impacting approximately 59.1 million users.

Legal Framework for Internet Shutdown in India

  • In India, internet shutdowns are primarily imposed under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules of 2017 and Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) of 1973.
  • The authority to issue orders for the suspension of telecom services rests with the Union Home Secretary or State Home Secretary. In exceptional circumstances, such orders may be issued by an officer of at least the rank of a Joint Secretary to the Union Government, who has been duly authorized by the aforementioned officials.
  • The grounds for issuing these orders include public emergency, public safety, sovereignty, and integrity of India.
  • The 2017 rules also outline the formation of a review committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and State Chief Secretary for Union and State governments, respectively, to review such orders. However, despite the introduction of these Suspension Rules in 2017, internet shutdowns continue to be implemented at the District Magistrate level under Section 144 of the CrPC, rather than by the Home Secretary.

Key Judicial Ruling

  • In the case of Anuradha Bhasin vs. UoI (2020), the Supreme Court declared that the freedom to practice any profession or engage in trade, business, or occupation over the medium of the internet holds constitutional protection under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(1)(g).
  • Key Recommendations by the Parliamentary Standing Committee (2021):

1) Selective Banning of Services: Instead of imposing a complete internet ban, consider selectively restricting the use of specific services.

2) Effectiveness Study: Conduct a comprehensive study on the impacts of internet shutdowns and evaluate their effectiveness in addressing public safety and emergency situations.

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