The Supreme Court declared that the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to carry on trade or business using the Internet are constitutionally protected. This came in the backdrop of the five-month-long Internet shutdown in Kashmir.
- The Information Technology Act, 2000, the Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973 and the Telegraph Act, 1885 are the three laws that deal with suspension of Internet services.
- In 2017, the central government notified the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules under the Telegraph Act to govern suspension of Internet. These Rules derive their powers from Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act.
- While India’s longest Internet suspension continues, the verdict has laid down a framework of how the Internet can be suspended, and what rights and legal recourses a citizen has when it is suspended.
- Although the court stopped short of ruling that access to Internet is a fundamental right, it said that the Internet as a medium is used to exercise other fundamental rights.
- The court recognised that the 2017 Rules are the only procedure to be followed to suspend Internet services in the occurrence of a “public emergency” or for it to be “in the interest of public safety”.
- The verdict reiterated that the competent authority to issue an order under the Suspension Rules, in ordinary circumstances, would be the Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- The Rules also say that in case the confirmation does not come from a competent authority, the orders shall cease to exist within a period of 24 hours.
Source : Indian Express