There has been a staggering increase in the number of Internet Shutdowns in India. In comparison to 2012 when India saw only three shutdowns over a year, in 2018, India has already observed 127 as of 28th November 2018 instances of Internet Shutdowns. While Internet shutdowns have become almost a standard state response during law and order situations in India, it is still highly unusual to see a shutdown being imposed to prevent cheating during examinations. That being said, we at SFLC.in have been maintaining an Internet Shutdowns tracker since 2012 and recording instances of Internet Shutdowns across India. As a result, we have observed that State of Rajasthan has ordered an Internet shutdown to prevent cheating during examinations on more than two occasions in 2018.
Thus, a Public Interest Litigation challenging orders that were promulgated to impose Internet Shutdowns in Rajasthan to prevent cheating in examinations was filed at the Jodhpur High Court, located in the State of Rajasthan. On 25th July 2018, the matter (CW 10304/2018) was listed and first heard by a division bench of Justice Nirmaljeet Kaur and Justice Dinesh Mehta.
The case was filed primarily to contest the validity of the State of Rajasthan’s action to issue orders to suspend Mobile Internet Services for conducting the Constable recruitment examination 2018. The petitioners, Advocates Nitin Goklani and Pravin Vyas, submitted that this action of the state was beyond the scope of Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, 2017. Petitioners argued that the orders to impose the Internet Shutdowns in order to prevent cheating in examination violated Article 19, fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression as enshrined under Constitution of India. The Jodhpur High Court took cognizance of the said submission and issued notices to the State of Rajasthan, through its secretary of Home Department, Rajasthan and Divisional Comissioner, Jodhpur.
Home Department of Rajasthan submitted an additional affidavit stating that the suspension of Internet Services for conducting examinations does not fall in the ambit of ‘public safety’ or ‘public emergency’ as provided under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, 2017. In the light of the said affidavit filed by the State of Rajasthan, a division bench comprising of Justice Sangeeta Lodha and Justice Dinesh Mehta disposed off the matter, on Wednesday, 28th November 2018.