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Central government defends internet shutdowns; tells Supreme Court regulating free speech in certain situations permissible

The government further said that the petitioner was seeking open-ended directions in the nature of an advance ruling, which was not permissible in an omnibus writ petition.

The affidavit heavily relied on Sections 5(2) and 7 of the Indian Telegraph Act, which gives competent officers the power to take possession of and intercept telegraphs and messages, and make rules for the same.

The said provisos read with the 2017 Temporary Suspension of Telecom Rules allow for internet bans on grounds of public safety and/or emergency, it was emphasised.

The extent, duration and kind of restriction on usage of mobile services including data are a relevant factor while evaluating the necessity of such restrictions, the affidavit added.

Considering the march of technology and means enabling public order issues to be created, the government machinery is required to act accordingly,” it said.

Pertinently, it was submitted that during such bans, the use of SMS, voice-call and broadband services are not restricted.

Moreover, such restrictions cannot be for more than 15 days, it was pointed out.

The principle of proportionality is also a subjective one that competent authorities at the ground are best positioned to assess while imposing restrictions, the government said.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala today adjourned the matter for hearing in July, after noting it is a pan-India issue.

Source: Barandbench

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