Cong MP seeks quashing of suspension of Internet services

Husain Dalwai

Husain Dalwai  

Move comes in wake of Internet shutdown spree in States to prevent unrest or cheating during exams

Congress Rajya Sabha MP Husain Dalwai has moved a statutory motion to quash the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, 2017, which allow for temporary shutdown of Internet services in case of “public emergency or public safety”.

The move came in the wake of Internet shutdown spree in different States across the country either to prevent unrest or cheating during examinations.

Press Freedom Report

The UN’s South Asia Press Freedom Report said 82 Internet shutdowns were reported across various States in India between April 2017 and March 2018.

The directions for temporary suspension of telecom services, including Internet services in an area, can either be issued by the Union Home Secretary or the State Home Secretary.

Ministry’s claims

The Home Ministry, however, has claimed that it has not ordered any Internet shutdown since the Rules came into effect last August.

Mr. Dalwai said the Internet was suspended for two days in several major cities of Rajasthan during a police constable exam to prevent cheating. He said this affected other people in those cities who had nothing to do with the exam.

The Manipur government suspended Internet services in the State for five days between July 20 and 25. Mr. Dalwai said a majority of Internet shutdowns which have been reported in the country have happened in Jammu and Kashmir.

Seeking to quash the 2017 Rules, Mr. Dalwai contended that Internet shutdowns constitute unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech.

Internet shutdowns affect communication, businesses and even access to essential services like emergency services and banking, he added. He said the rules do not require notification of a shutdown that is ordered.

“People in affected areas do not know of a shutdown till the order actually takes effect on the ground. This does not allow the potentially affected people to prepare their schedules and activities accordingly,” said Mr. Dalwai, adding that Internet shutdowns do not distinguish between people instigating public disorder and those who are uninvolved.

He claimed the government did not follow the pre-legislative consultation policy, in place since 2014, which requires that any law, including Rules, must be made through a transparent process of public consultation.

“It is unclear what consultations were held. In response to a petition made to it, the Department of Telecommunications responded that it consulted appropriate stakeholders but did not provide any details on who these stakeholders are,” he said adding, “These details were even denied in an RTI.”

This story has been corrected for a heading error

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 7:35:35 PM |

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