With 73 Shut Downs, J&K Leads Table On Internet Blockade  

New Delhi—Jammu and Kashmir, with 73 Internet shutdowns in last four years, leads the table, a tracker website maintained by the Dehi-based non-profit legal services organization Software Freedom Law Centre has revealed.

The tracker– www.internetshutdowns.in – shows that since 2012, Internet has been shut down in different parts of India 165 times.

Internet shutdowns have been expressly condemned by the international community, including the United Nations, for violating fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and expression, said Prasanth Sugathan, legal director of SFLC.IN

“Through our work, we hope to build a resource pool that will help address the issue of Internet shutdowns through evidence-based and result-oriented dialogues,” Sugathan added.

“We have been tracking instances of Internet shutdowns in India since 2012. We launched a website in February 2017 featuring an interactive compilation of our data alongside various other resources on Internet shutdowns,” he said, adding that the website seeks to track incidents of Internet shutdowns across India in an attempt to draw attention to the troubling trend of disconnecting access to Internet services, for reasons ranging from curbing unrest to preventing cheating in an examination.

In 2016, SFLC.IN was made the official country partner for #KeepItOn – a global campaign against Internet shutdowns spearheaded by Access Now, an international civil society organization that fights for digital rights around the world. Its data on India’s Internet shutdowns feeds into the campaign’s worldwide database, and is frequently presented at various Government and policy forums discussing the issue.

 “Through our work, we hope to build a resource pool that will help address the issue of Internet shutdowns through evidence-based and result-oriented dialogues,” Sugathan said.

The central government had in August last year notified rules to regulate the temporary suspension of telecom services due to “public emergency or public safety”. The notification issued by the Union ministry of communications, under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, codified the rules as the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017.

As per the notification, the “competent authority” for issuing directions to suspend the telecom services in case of Government of India is Union home secretary, and in case of state government, the state home secretary. “An officer, not below the rank of a joint secretary” can issue such an order “in unavoidable circumstances” subject to “confirmation from the competent authority within 24 hours.”

As per the Centre’s notification, the order to suspend the Internet services along with a copy detailing the reasons for the same should be submitted to a three-member review committee — led by cabinet secretary in case of Government of India, and by chief secretary in case of state government.

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