A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking direction to declare internet shutdowns as "unconstitutional, illegal and unenforceable" and in violation of Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
The PIL filed by advocate Ehtesham Hashmi, a fourth year law student Arshad Hussain, and one Deepak Tiwari also sought the issuance of guidelines to prevent the unreasonable and arbitrary internet shutdown under the temporary suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017.
The petition claimed that India, the second-highest internet user in the world, has the maximum number of internet shutdowns in the world and between January 2012 and April 2018, around 19 Indian states recorded 172 shutdowns. India reported having more than 100 instances of internet shutdown in 2019, petition further stated.
"There is internet shutdown amid the anti Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens protest in various part of the country after the imposition of Section 144 of the criminal procedure code in the affected location by the police officials, which is in violation of freedom of speech and expression as it is to restrict the expression and dissent of the citizens and violation of others also who needs to access internet for other information. The act of internet shutdown has cut off communication of people from a particular place with the rest of the world and country," the petition stated.
It further said that the act of internet shutdown is not only an infringement of fundamental rights but also a pernicious act to curb dissent in the garb of maintaining public order by the government and police official.
"Internet shutdown and suspension of communication services restricts an individual's right to voice its opinion and receive information, without access to information freedom of speech and expression is mengless. It not only restricts freedom of speech and expression but other ancillary rights flowing from it," the petition added.
The petition also mentioned various previous and recent incidents when government shut down the internet service in various states including Jammu and Kashmir, Darjeeling, Tripura, Assam, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh among others.
( With inputs from ANI )