“Internet access equality is a fundamental right,” Justice N.V. Ramana of the Supreme Court said 150 days after the internet shutdown in Kashmir. The Indian Government suspended all internet services in the area after the revocation of Section 370 of the Indian Constitution on 30 October 2019.
Freedom Of Speech
The Supreme Court has confirmed that Internet communication forms part of the right to freedom of speech (FoE) referred to in Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution. Also, Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution shall state any limitation on this right.
Invoking a specific part of the British-era legislation of the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885, the government did this. According to the reports, the provision of medical services in the area was complicated without the Internet.
The effect of the Internet shutdown, of course, has had an economic and human impact on the region. A teenage boy from Kashmir is among the confirmed dead since the internet shutdown.
The Supreme Court also described Section 144 repeatedly, which prevents more than four-five people from assembling, as “abuse of powers.”
“Section 144 can not be used to prevent the legitimate expression of democratic rights,” the Supreme Court declared on the Internet shutdown in Kashmir.
In the modern democratic world, the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi was the only country to suspend Internet services between Jan 2016 and May 2018 for 154 times. In comparison, war-torn Syria had 8 shutdowns over this period, while Iran had only 4 shutdowns. India suffered a total of 95 internet shutdowns in 2019.
When the Supreme Court heard a series of pleas questioning these restrictions, an international diplomat went to Cashmir to examine and monitor the situation. Experts believe that the visit also proves wrong Pakistan’s claims, which highlight the disregard for human rights in the region.
The internet shutdown not only disrupts people’s everyday activities but also burns a hole in the telecommunications pockets. The report states that Indian mobile operators lose £ 270,000 in sales per hour during an internet shutdown.
According to the new report entitled The Top10VPN’s Global Cost Of Internet Shutdowns, India lost over $1.3 billion throughout the country. India is the third most economically damaged country following Iraq and Sudan as a result of internet shutdown.
Losing such money should be a big deal for a country that is growing very slowly in the last 42 years. In contrast, India’s entire education budget is only marginally 13 million dollars.
Should CAA Be Blamed?
The frequency of recent Internet shutdowns increased when the CAB (Citizenship Amendment Bill) was adopted by the Indian government on 2 December 2019, and then transformed into CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act).
On 19 December 2019, the government of Narendra Modi stepped forward and shut down the internet in New Delhi’s National Capital Region.
The justification for the shutdown was to prevent violence, which they felt could cause misinformation. But, if we look at all the areas in which anti-CAA protests have taken place, we would see that there has been significant violence in the UP, Karnataka, Gujrat, and Delhi, who all have police run BJP by Narendra-Modi.
The non-BJP States have witnessed almost no crime, like Andra Pradesh, Kerela, Rajasthan, and Madhya-Pradesh.
Nearly 27 people, all Muslims, died in Uttar-Pradesh in alleged police-led violence against the Muslim population.
Following countless killings, loss of property, and civil strife under Narendra Modi’s Government, the Indian Supreme Court could be seen to assign an external agency to review the illegal shutdowns on the internet and the repeated imposition of Section 144, rather than merely asking the government to review it.
The Supreme Court, however, requested the government of India to review its flagrant abuse of power. In my opinion, the Supreme Court order of the Indian Government lacked a simple “Please.”