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Laws and Regulations surrounding internet shutdowns

These shutdowns are initiated by regional or local authorities via executive orders or decrees. They exploit the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885, a colonial-era law meant to regulate India’s telegraph system. This law is being actively used as a medium to curtail the internet. The authorities derive power from Section 5 of the said Act, and the law is often used as an instrument to censor any opinion perceived as unpopular. Exercising the power conferred by Section 7 of the Act, the government laid down the Internet Shutdown Rules in 2017. These rules empowered regional and federal governments to temporarily suspend mobile services during emergencies, with “public emergency” and “public safety” being the only valid grounds.

This digital authoritarianism has sparked debates about the necessity, proportionality and transparency of such actions and their impact on the fundamental rights of the general public. Technology experts and human rights advocates have called for a more judicious and transparent approach to internet shutdowns, along with the need for definite mechanisms, clear criteria and adherence to international human rights standards.

From shutting down telecom networks to breaking encryptions, the administration has conferred itself with new powers to tighten its control over the digital space. Blocking access to information cannot be a justified solution to prevent the spreading of rumours. A country that claims to be a digital economy with the “Digital India” initiative, but repeatedly suspends internet services, contradicts its own assertions. The ability to access and exchange information is what makes people safer in any crisis. Shutdowns are inherently a disproportionate measure and cannot be justified. 

Source: Barandbench

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