The litigation section lists out all the significant litigations that have taken place on Internet shutdowns in India.
Feb. 1, 2021
SFLC.in assisted in filing a Writ Petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging internet shutdown imposed in the State of Haryana since 27.01.2021
A Writ petition was filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court earlier on 01-02-2021 against the shutdown imposed by the Haryana Government since 27th January 2021. The matter was listed on 9-02.2021 infront of the Chief Justice's Bench.
It had started with internet being suspended in Jhajjhar, Sonipat and Palwal districts in Haryana on 27th January 2021. The internet was said to be shut till 5PM on 27th January originally but later the order was extended till 5PM on 28th January 2021. This was extended to many other districts, the total number being 17. The shutdown was completely lifted only after a period of more than 10 days on 6th Febuary 2021 from all districts in Haryana.
Aggrieved by this, a petitioner moved to court as he was unable to work without internet or get medical services. The matter was heard on 9-02-2021. The matter was withdrawn as it was the opinion of the bench that it had become infructuous. Lawyers from SFLC.in Prasanth Sugathan, Radhika Jhalani and Kushagra Sinha as well as Mishi Choudhary appeared for the petitioner.
Case: Banashree Gogoi v. Union of India and Ors.[2019 SCC OnLine Gau 5584]
On December 11, 2019, the internet and mobile services were suspended for 24 hours. However, the services were not restored till December 17th, 2019. A petition was filed to allow the restoration of internet services. The Gauhati High Court directed the Governments of Centre and Assam to consider restoring mobile internet services from 3 PM.
Case: Software Freedom Law Center, India vs. State of West Bengal [W.P. No. 5245 of 2020]
The petition was filed in the High Court of Calcutta. In May 2020, internet services were cut off in some parts of Hoogli district in West Bengal, following communal riots. It was found that the internet had been suspended using Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. The matter was last listed for its hearing on May 22, 2020.
Case: Fahima Shireen v. State of Kerala [WP (C) No. 19716 of 2019 (L)]
The petitioner, a female student was not allowed to user her mobile phone or laptop in the girls’ hostel from 10:00 pm to 6:00 pm. When she raised the concern, she was asked to vacate the premises. She filed a petition against the order. The High Court of Kerala stated that such restriction is unreasonable. The order by the college authorities violates part of Article 21 i.e., right to education, right to privacy and right to access internet.
Case: Foundation of Media Professionals v. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir [WP (C) 10817 /2020)]
The petitioners filed the plea on April 2, 2020, for the restoration of 4G mobile internet services in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir. The Hon’ble Court stated that the case of cross-border terrorism cannot be ignored. However, a special committee was formed to examine the issue.
Case: Anuradha Bhasin V. Union of India (W.P(C) no. 1031 of 2019)
Mobile and broadband Internet services were suspended in Jammu and Kashmir on 4th January 2019. On 10th August 2019, A petition was moved by Anuradha Basin, the executive editor of Kashmir Times. This petition challenged the curbing of media freedom in the state. The petition claimed that the media in the erstwhile state cannot practice their profession owing to the internet as well as telecommunications shutdown in the state. A similar petition was moved by Gulam Nabi Azad seeking issuance of an appropriate writ to set aside, quash any orders, notifications, directions or circulars issued by Government of India under which all/any modes of communication have been shut down. Further an appropriate writ was asked to be issued which would immediately restore all modes of communication including mobile, internet and landline services throughout the state. so that the media could practice its profession. The Judgement in the case was delivered on 10th January 2020.You can read about our statement here and legal analysis here .
Case: SFLC.in v. Union of India & Ors. [WP (C) No. 13853/2019]
In December 2019, certain areas in Delhi faced internet shutdown during the Citizenship Amendment Act protests. SFLC.in filed a petition praying to set aside the order. On December 24, 2019, the Delhi High Court refused to exercise its powers under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution. The case was disposed on 24th December 2019.
Delhi High Court’s dismissal of the Public Interest Litigation challenging Internet Shutdown in Delhi
Delhi witnessed its first ever Internet shutdown on the 19th of December, 2019. There was a petition filed by SFLC.IN in public interest challenging the Internet shutdown order issued by the DCP, Special Cell, New Delhi on 19.12.2019. SFLC.IN also sought directions to the DCP not to issue further Internet Shutdowns orders as the DCP did not have any authority to do so. The Petition was dismissed by the Delhi High Court. You can read more about it here
Kerala High Court Declares ‘Right to Access Internet’ as a Fundamental Right
The Kerala High Court in a monumental decision has held ‘Right to Internet Access’ as a fundamental right. The Court declared that the right to have access to Internet becomes the part of right to education as well as right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.The petition was filed by Faheema Shirin, a hostel resident and student of Sree Narayana College, Chelanur, Kozhikode against the discriminatory girls’ hostel rules, specifically banning use of mobile phones from 6 PM to 10 PM which restricted them from accessing internet. The petitioner was subsequently arbitrarily expelled from the hostel on protesting against the rules. SFLC.IN intervened in the case. You can read about it here and here
Case: Dhirendra Singh Rajpurohit V. State of Rajasthan [CW/10304/ 2018]
Public Interest Litigation was filed before the Jodhpur High Court challenging State Government of Rajasthan's orders of imposing internet shutdowns. These shutdowns were ordered to prevent cheating in examinations on more than two occasions in 2018.Home Department of Rajasthan submitted an 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. The division bench comprising Justice Sangeeta Lodha and Justice Dinesh Mehta disposed off the matter, on Wednesday, 28th November 2018. View our post on the public interest litigation here .
Case: Gaurav Sureshbhai Vyas v. State of Gujarat [ W.P. (PIL) No. 191 of 2015]
In this case the practice of invoking Section 144 to impose Internet shutdowns was challenged. Petitioner argued that instead of blanket ban under Section 144 of CrPC, Section 69A of Information Technology Act, 2000 should be used to block specific social media websites which contain inflammatory messages to incite violence. The court held that the state government is a competent authority under this provision and has the rightful authority in times of emergency, to decide to block entire mobile Internet services, failing which, the situation could worsen. The State government has the discretion to exercise this power with prudence, public duty and the sufficiency of action in their view.Special Leave Petition (SLP) challenging the order of the Gujarat High Court in the case of Gaurav Sureshbhai Vyas v. State of Gujarat was dismissed by the Supreme Court in February 2016. Read here .
Article 19(1)(a) guarantees freedom of speech and expression through the internet. If any restriction is placed on such freedom, it should be in consonance with Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India. This case was decided on July 19, 1988.
SFLC.IN is the first Indian legal services organization that works exclusively on technology, law, and policy. As a not-for-profit organization engaged in the empowerment of Indian citizens about their digital freedom and rights, it operates as a collective bringing together different stakeholders to a common platform to further the cause of digital rights. SFLC.in promotes innovation and open access to knowledge by helping policy makers make informed and just decisions regarding the use and adoption of technology. As of 2020 SFLC.in is the only Indian organization to be inducted as a member of the IFEX, a global network to defend the right to freedom of expression and information.
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