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
The Freedom on the Net 2012 report says:
- India’s overall Internet Freedom Status is “Partly Free”, unchanged from
- 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.
- India ranks third out of the eleven countries in Asia included in the
- Before 2008, Censorship of internet content by the Indian Government was
relatively rare and sporadic.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that bloggers and moderators can face
libel suits and even criminal prosecution for comments posted on their websites.
- 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.
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
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
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.
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