India Insights

How internet shutdowns impact our civil liberties

We receive this comment few days back “I’m Yaqoob from Jammu and Kashmir. Here everything including internet is blocked/banned, probably because of our social media activities. We kashmire sometimes use social media to upload our victimised stories .but Indian government do not like this, she is afraid of getting exposed in worldwide. Please-please help us …”

And this compel me to write on this sensitive issue..

Imagine this situation. A region of the country is deeply annoyed with the actions of the government. There are plans for widespread and aggressive protests. The government fears that the protests might turn violent. It decides to cut-off the internet access to the entire region for an indefinite period of time, reasoning to preserve the law & order in that region.

Is access to internet is a basic, non-negotiable right, a part of the right to life, and that it cannot simply be left at the mercy of the government? What do you think?

I think if the government really wishes to keep law and order, then it must find other, less drastic ways of doing so, such as increasing security, perhaps a curfew, or even winning the trust of the people and addressing their grievances.

In the 21st century, the Internet has assumed an increasingly important place in our lives. From banking to political speech, and from complex medical procedures to the purchase of basic necessities, important aspects of our economic, social, and cultural life now depend upon the Internet. Many of the fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution — the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of association, the freedom of trade — are exercised in significant part on the Internet. But the growing importance of the Internet in personal life, as well as its growing use to challenge governmental authority, has led to a backlash, where governments attempt to reorient the relationship between the individual and the state in their favour by controlling the Internet.

In India, “Internet shutdown” is one ubiquitous form of control by government. To prevent protests, the government may — and actually does — cut-off Internet access for purposes as comically diverse as preventing violent protests (Kashmir) and cheating in exams (Gujarat).

The government must, by law, subject Internet shutdowns to judicial scrutiny as soon as reasonably possible. And courts must take into account the exceptional character of Internet shutdowns and their impact on core civil liberties before validating them.

The concentration of more power in the hands of the government will only further disempower the individual against the state, and achieve a temporary illusion of security at the cost of a permanent loss of freedom.


This article is already published in a renowned newspaper
Courtesy: Gautam Bhatia, Delhi-based lawyer

By Kriti Raina

Regulatory & Policy Legal Practice at J Sagar Associates , Hydrabad

13 replies on “How internet shutdowns impact our civil liberties”

Removing Internet access to deny a population the right to air it’s grievances with the Government is violating civil rights and those grievances are not likely to stay hidden when the population are able to travel and have access to phones. In other words it’s a useless exercise except to irritate those people already aggrieved with the State, Come down off your high horse and address the problems making a real attempt to solve them. Unless you are Turkey and just don’t care, the rights of your people must be paramount.

Liked by 1 person


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