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Internet Ban In India

What Is Internet Censorship?

Internet censorship is basically control or restriction on what information can be publicized or viewed on the internet. Governments and other organizations commonly use internet censorship to block access to copyrighted pieces of information as well as to harmful or sensitive content.

Internet censorship varies on a country-to-country basis. Whereas a few democratic nations have direct internet Censorship whereas other nations have limited constrain on the use of data. Internet censorship also occurs in the response to or in anticipation of events such as any law passed by the government. There are various types of censorship which are to protect copyright, defamation, harassment, and misleading materials to protect the public from being misguided.

Who Can Censor Internet?

The central government and the state government of India have the right to impose a ban on internet services in any location in the territory of India in case of an emergency situation such as any dissent with the government, any new law related dissent, or election. In India, the central and state government is not compelled to seek permission or advice from any court of India to impose a ban on the internet, the government can directly impose a ban on or can ask All licensed ISPs(Internet Service Providers) to filter that content or to remove or to impose a complete net ban.

Position Of India To Global Internet Ban

India has a score of 51 which is lower than last year's performance which was 55, that is why India has been considered a partly free internet nation. India has faced the highest downfall in the rating after Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan which were down five points each. In what has been the unprecedented year 2020 was, i/t was the internet that kept people connected in the time of the corona pandemic.

As billions of people were locked down at home and work from home had become the new normal it was the internet that managed to kept the wheel moving.
According to Mary Meeker Internet Trends Report, there are 3.8 million internet users globally, accounting for 51 percent of the world’s population. China leads with 21 percent of the user base followed by India (12 percent), the US (8 percent), Indonesia, and Brazil.

There are more than 450 million internet users in India, the number itself is huge and quite impressive but the pandemic has caused digital repression. Access to the internet and freedom are whole together different topics. Freedom House that monitors the state of freedom and democracy across world-rates Internet Freedom in 65 countries om three parameters:
  • Obstacle to Access
  • Limit on content
  • Violation of User Rights
India scored 12 out of 25 in Obstacle to Access; 21 out of 35 in limits on content and 18 out of 40 in Violation of User Rights. Of 65 countries Freedom House rated 15 as free countries; 28 including India are partly free and 22 are not free.

The Freedom on the Net 2012 report says:
  1. India’s overall Internet Freedom Status is “Partly Free”, unchanged from 2009
  2. India has a score of 39 on a scale from 0(most free) to 100(least free), which places India 20 out of 47 countries worldwide that were included in the 2012 report. India ranked 14 out of 37 countries in the 2011 report.
  3. India ranks third out of the eleven countries in Asia included in the 2012 report.
  4. Before 2008, Censorship of internet content by the Indian Government was relatively rare and sporadic.
  5. Following the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which killed 171 people, the Indian Parliament passed amendments to the Information Technology Act(ITA) that expanded the government's censorship and monitoring capabilities.
  6. Pressure on private companies to remove information that is perceived to endanger public order or national security has increased since late 2009, with the implementation of the amended ITA. Companies are required to have designated employees to receive government blocking request and assigns up to seven year’s imprisonment private service providers including ISPs, search engines, and cybercafes that do not comply with government blocking requests.
  7. Internet users have sporadically faced prosecution for online posting, and private companies hosting the content are obliged by law to hand over user information to the authorities.
  8. In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that bloggers and moderators can face libel suits and even criminal prosecution for comments posted on their websites.
  9. Prior judicial approval for communications interception is not required and both central and state governments have the power to issue directives on the interception, monitoring, and decryption. All licensed ISPs are obliged by law to sign an agreement that allows Indian Government authorities to access user data.

Internet Shutdowns

Jammu & Kashmir Shutdown

This was the longest internet shutdown that happened in the history of the internet which lasted for 213 days starting from 4th august 2019 to 4th March 2020. This specific shutdown occurred when article 370 of the constitution of India was abrogated by the parliament of India. There was a presidential order 272 dated 5th august 2019 which stated this. The state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into the union territories of jammu&kashmir and Ladakh.

There was a preventive shutdown imposed in the state which is yet to be lifted entirely the shutdown in Kargil was lifted on 27th December 2019 but continues in other parts of the state. The beginning of the communication blockade saw landlines, as well as mobile services, restricted, the ban on the landlines were lifted out but the suspension on mobile internet continues in the valley. On 25th January 2020, 2G services were restored in the valley for the specific and verified people only.

Only whitelisted websites can be accessed and all the social media websites were on a complete shutdown state. The services were snapped again on 26th January on account of security concerns for Republic day. On 4th March, a new order was passed by the administration of J&K all the whitelisted websites were removed but the internet could only be accessed using the 2G network on only verified sims.

The Kargil Shutdown
This was the 2nd longest shutdown in the history of internet shutdowns in India it was for 145 days from 4th august 2019 to 27th December 2019. The shutdown was imposed alongside the suspension of all landline mobile and SMS communication as a preventive measure in the wake of the abrogation of article 370. The internet shutdown was lifted on 27th December 2019 in the district but it continues in the other parts of the Erstwhile State.

Kashmir, Jammu & Kashmir

The longest Internet Shutdown was observed in Kashmir located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 2016 due to the agitation caused by the killing of Burhan Wani on 8th July 2016. Mobile Internet Services were suspended for 133 days. While mobile Internet services on postpaid numbers were restored on November 19, 2016. Mobile Internet services for prepaid users were resumed in January 2017, this implies they faced almost a six month Internet shutdown

Darjeeling West Bengal

The third longest Internet services suspension was observed in Darjeeling. The order suspending the Internet services was promulgated on 18th June 2017 due to the ongoing agitation for a separate Gorkhaland. Two days later, on 20thJune, the order was extended to the broadband services as well, effectively shutting down the entire Internet, with several such extension orders Internet services were suspended in Darjeeling for 100 days.

That’s not all in the year 2019, India had the most cases of internet shutdowns even after leaving the shutdowns of Kashmir and Jammu.
According to internet shutdowns.in, there have been 455 shutdowns since 2012 out of which 134 shutdowns happened in 2018, 106 in 2019, and 77 in 2020.

Negative Effects Of Internet Ban

The real effect of the internet ban can be seen in the time of pandemic as the whole world was on lockdown mode and the whole world was operating digitally. The ban violated the fundamental rights of the people of Kashmir to education, health, business, and expression.

Due to the ban on the internet information and advice to tackle the COVID-19 were inaccessible. Doctors had very limited or no knowledge of the treatment for COVID-19 as compared to the doctors of other parts of the country and internationally and the ban also prevented the Telemedical guidelines that for issued by the Indian government for the better treatment of coronavirus through digital platforms and reduce the number of people visiting the hospital the dual unavailability of latest treatment in Telemedical guidelines while its basic human sites search right to healthcare which can be used under Article 21 of the Indian constitution

The ban also affected the judicial system in the state of Jammu and Kashmir as the whole country was on lockdown state in the rest part of the Indian judiciary was going online Add Jammu and Kashmir was having Internet banned which cause access to Telemedical consultation and high-speed Internet because of which the citizens of Kashmir have to suffer from justice problems.

The ban also affected the students very Badly as other students were having their classes virtually through Internet but the students of Kashmir in Jammu due to lack of proper Internet services but not able to attend their classes which infringes their right to education.

The Indian government ordered organizations to implement a work from home approach this is unworkable in Kashmir to work due to the lack of high-speed Internet, this infringes right of livelihood mentioned under article 21and right to trade mentioned under article 19(1)(g)of the Indian constitution later the government ordered the closure of all school and universities with teaching moving to online platform these platforms do not work in Kashmir and therefore the government is in violation of the right to education provided in the article of the constitution.

The Supreme Court made the decision in Radha Basi versus Union of India back mandated the use of the principle of professionality when is ticking the right of freedom of speech and expression provided under article 19 of Indian constitution Additionally the court ordered the government to justify restricting fundamental rights guru rate on how any alternative of lesser gravity would be adequate in current crisis such as man is this appropriate because of various fundamental rights of citizens are compromised it is also arbitrary because it applies to cool status, not to the risky part where Internet services might turn out to be unsafe.

Due to the lockdown government ordered work from due to which people of Kashmir lost their source of income as there a basic source of income was tourism during Corona pandemic tourism was prohibited because of which people of Kashmir and Jammu one not able to earn their livelihood so there was a major increase in crimes as people used to steal and rob.

According to section 144 of code of criminal procedure 1973 as the sole occupant under the chapter of temporary measure to maintain public tranquility and give state governments the power to issue orders for immediate remedy in urgent cases of new sense or apprehended danger however the increasing use of this provision to completely shut down the Internet is becoming a cause of concern for the reason that it amounts to a direct violation of fundamental rights to the freedom of speech guaranteed under article 19 of Indian Constitution during this Corona pandemic Internet became the medium to exercise right to freedom of speech and expression a social gathering were not allowed people used Internet to virtually meet their loved ones and due to the lack of Internet services instead of Jammu and Kashmir people were not able to express their concern to the other part of the world The Internet is not only a medium to exercise the right of freedom to speech and expression but it is correctly identified as a catalyst in process of imparting receiving and sending informations.

Between 2013-2015 Internet services have been completely shutdown insert part of India around 7 times where 5 of them happened in the year 2015 alone in 2013, 2014 Internet services were banned in parts of Kashmir and Gujarat respectively in 2015 started with Internet blackout in Nagaland in March to restrict Lynching video of a rape victim, followed by parts of Gujarat being cut off in late August Manipur and Kashmir was disconnected in September owning to violence in a small town of Chudandrapur In prohibition on cow slaughter respectively the latest instance of Internet banned can be seen around the borders of Delhi as the farmers are protesting against the farm bill the government ordered Internet ban around the border Of Delhi where the farmers were protesting this ban was implemented to curb the voice of farmers.

The Supreme Court in the case of Madhu Limaye v. Ved Murti Has held that the scope of section 144 extends to make in an order which cyber prohibitory or mandatory nature and urgency is the only criteria that can justify an order under this section with a wide range of powers granted to state government including the power to grand the order expert the ambit of this provision has been mostly used to curb unlawful assemblies and procession that are anticipated as a danger to public tranquility this widely word provision that includes terms like annoyance was constitutionally challenged in the Supreme Court but retained place when it was held that likely food of its misuse is not a reason for it to be struck down

Conclusion
The Internet is not merely a communication system but is a chosen platform for business e-commerce e-governance programs a site for research and information among many other things consequently a complete shutdown for the Internet has implication for the entire population of that area which includes innocent people who have no role in causing apprehended danger or nuisance this, in turn, causes widespread censorship and violation of citizens fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under in the Indian constitution.

There should be a separate authority which induces Internet ban and which has to seek the permission of Supreme Court of India when it has to impose a ban longer than 1 month and consent of the state government should be taken to implement any such ban.

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