Is Internet Shutdown Legal during government-related Examination in the state?
By Jon Pebi Tato
In the state of Arunachal Pradesh, the shutting down of the internet during any government-related examination has been a prominent measure of the government to curb and thwart unforeseen happenings. In recent years the state has witnessed unprecedented malicious that had occurred when it comes to Government related examinations or interviews.
The shutting down of the internet does help the administration and authorities in thwarting the negative implications but on the other hand, it deters the economy which completely depends upon the internet service.
So is it legally right to shut down internet connection while the conduct of examination? These questions have been hovering around the minds of the citizens of the state.
The article is solely based on the writer’s understanding and some excerpts that country’s Law makers opined on pertaining to the internet shutdown.
According to legal service India, “Internet Shutdowns may be defined as any disruption in access to the internet services most of which deals with mobile internet”. As per the report provided by Quarterly Indicators Performance Report by TRAI, more than 90% Indians access the internet through the mobiles.
An Era of Computers and its Complete dependency on Internet “
There won’t be any person on earth today to defy that the access to Computers and the Internet has become a basic need for education in our society.
Every step of life in today's world, one needs internet for various reasons , starting from the small bussiness to large economic contributers, internet has become a part and partial of one's daily livelihood,
In the past few years India had gone through several violence occurred as a result of certain legislations by the Union Government such as a new amendment in The Citizenship Amendment Act, abrogation of Article 370 etc. which could be resulted in Internal Aggression, due to such violence in the Country sometimes it becomes the need of the hour to shut down the internet services to maintain peace. It has become very common practice for law enforcement agencies and even for the Government to cut down the internet during the moment of tension. The Internet shut down during the PRC issue in Itanagar can also be taken as another instance to it.
The Internet actually actualizes a lot of Fundamental Rights beyond Freedom of Speech and Expression because today in a digital era people utilizes it to avail rations, card transactions, talk to their relatives, manage healthcare and much more activities which in fact are very necessary for a person to perform its daily needs and function.
Are there any Legal Provisions?
1/ Till the year 2017, shutdowns were imposed largely under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Section 144 of CrPC gave the police and the District Magistrate the powers in order to prevent unlawful gathering of people and also to direct any person to abstain from a certain activity. However, in 2017 the law was amended and the Government promulgated the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rule 2017, However this order should be reviewed within five days, wherein the Chief Secretary should have to give the justification of the order.
2/ The Indian Telegraph ACT ,1885 empowers the Central and state government to prevent the transmission of an kind of in formation of Public safety, security, sovereignty and the integrity of the country.
3/ IT ACT doesn’t talk about the universal ban of the Internet shut down but instead on an individual level.
What the Supreme Court has to say?
Key Highlights of the orders:
- · Usage of the Internet is the Fundamental Right under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.
- · Internet shutdowns can be of temporary period but not for indefinite period.
- · Government to publish all orders imposing restrictions under Section 144.
- · The Court had also said that any order with regard to Internet Shutdowns will come under Judicial Scrutiny.
In January 2020 the Supreme Court by ruling on Jammu and Kashmir Internet shutdown held that indefinite internet shutdowns by the State are not permissible under Indian Constitution and its an abuse of power. The apex Court further stated that the imposition of Section144 can not be used as a mechanism to avoid genuine protest which is permitted under the Constitution. Section 144 has very specific parameters, only if those parameters are satisfied then only the magistrate can pass the order.
However looking at the rationale behind the internet shutdown , under Anurag Bhasu case the court has invoked the doctrine of proportionality , it stated one must give a justification of the order of the list of intrusive measures to check or take any preventive measures of the security of the county if the internet is being shut down, in simple term “an alternative to internet shutdown”
Does the Internet Shut down has the Negative implication?
- Curtails the Freedom of Speech enshrined under Article 19 (1)(g)
- Bring loss to the Bussinesss communitites who rely on internet service
- Contribute to the downfall of the market graph when internet is shutdown even for an hour.
- Official forwardings through internet service gets halted and delayed.
- Students depending upon the usage of internet gets hampered.
Internet Shut-Down during the government related recruitment Examinations?
Many in Arunachal Pradesh has opined that shutting down internet is nothing but curtailement of an individual's constitutional right to seek information. Some even went on to state that the it's the faillure of the administration to bring in alternative ways instead of the internet shutdown.
Some even stated to the SPACE MEDIA that ,"while we are inside the examination hall with only pen , admit card card and an ID, how come it is possible for us to contact someone outside the examination hall for an answer, this is totally ridiculous".
An appearing candidate stated ,"We are strictly checked at the entry gate and then allowed to sit in , with such strictness, shutting down internet by the administration is noting but useless step"
On the other hand , an Anonymous person agreeing on the authority's decision to ban internet service expressed that since there has been many a time when the candidate had been caught cheating , using whatsapp or some other bluetooth device to solve the paper, etc the Internet shutdown is a wise step.
However, the question yet persists "Is Internet Shutdown legal during government-related Examination"?