Internet Shutdown Trends in India

Over the past few years, the number of instances in which Internet access was blocked for entire regions by the Indian Government has been steadily climbing. These “Internet shutdowns” are usually instituted as responses to conflict situations i.e. to prevent rumor-driven escalations of civil unrest, but they are also instituted at times for reasons far more trivial, such as to prevent cheating during examinations.

United Nations passes a resolution condemning Internet Shutdowns

The United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution on 1st July, 2016, condemning network disruptions and measures resorted by states to curb online access and/or dissemination of information. Moreover, this resolution affirmed that rights in the online sphere, especially the right to freedom of expression requires the same standard of protection as in the offline world.

Legality of Internet shutdowns under Section 144 CrPC

India has seen numerous Internet shutdowns for various reasons in this year, all under the same provision of law - Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC). This section resides as the sole occupant under the chapter of 'temporary measures to maintain public tranquility' and gives State Governments the power to issue orders for immediate remedy in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger.