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Row over J&K Net ban at House panel meet

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Row over J&K Net ban at House panel meet:


Context:

The J&K administration had extended the ban on 3G-4G mobile internet excluding two districts of Ganderbal and Udhampur.

  • Recently, the Standing Committee on Information and Technology met to discuss on the issue.

What’s the issue?

The main question that the committee posed was about the status of the Internet shutdown.

  • As per the Supreme Court judgment in the Anuradha Bhasin case, Internet services cannot be suspended indefinitely.
  • Following the orders, the Central government amended the Telecom Suspension Rules 2017 to insert Rule 2A, which specifies that an Internet shutdown order can remain in operation for a maximum period of 15 days.

Supreme Court’s verdict:

  • The Court said that all restrictive orders under Section 144 of CrPC and suspension of internet services in Jammu and Kashmir have to be reviewed by the administration.
  • The Court also laid down a framework of how the Internet can be suspended, and what rights and legal recourses a citizen has when it is suspended.

Observations made by the Court:

On internet restrictions:

  1. Right to internet is a fundamental right (subject to reasonable restrictions) included in the freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.
  2. Restrictions on fundamental rights could not be in exercise of arbitrary powers. These freedoms could only be restricted as a last resort if “relevant factors” have been considered and no other options are there.
  3. Suspension of internet services indefinitely is also a violation of telecom rules.

What procedure does the government follow to suspend Internet services?

Before 2017, Internet suspension orders were issued under section 14 of the CrPC.

In 2017, the central government notified the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules under the Telegraph Act to govern suspension of Internet.

  • These Rules derive their powers from Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, which talks about interception of messages in the “interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India”.

Despite the 2017 rules, the government has often used the broad powers under Section 144.

Sources: the Hindu.