Right to the Internet: subjective or absolute in India?

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Internet shutdown in Karnal on Thursday amid farmers’ blockade at mini secretariat   

The government of Haryana suspended internet and SMS services in the Karnal district on Thursday. The notice issued by the government stated the section had chances to enter a public emergency, reported by ANI.   

Farmers were sitting on dharna in protest of the police crackdown last month. Haryana police’s lathi charge on the rally on Karnal highway left several farmers injured.

At the Bastar toll plaza, farmers protested against a BJP meeting chaired by the Chief Minister of State Manohar Lal Khattar. The Indian Express published the incident.   

The district administration imposed 144 Section of Criminal Procedure Code in Karnal on September 7 banning public gatherings, published by the Tribune India.  

Politicians criticize the move

Despite explanation by the Haryana government for the move to stop the spread of potential misinformation rumours through social media and SMS services, many people showed opposition to the step.   

The CPI(M) Party also raised opposition against the decision and called it undemocratic.  Shama Mohamed, the National Spokesperson for Indian National Congress, said that the ruling party feared Annadatas (farmers) and underestimated the country’s farmers, sources taken from Twitter.   

Right to the Internet in Constitution  

Laut Legal Services, a law study website, Article 19(1)a) and 19(1)g) of the Indian Constitution protects freedom of speech and expression online. 

In one of the recent judgments, the Kerala High Court ruled that the right to the internet is part of the fundamental right to life and liberty, which comes under Article 21 of the Constitution as the internet plays a crucial role in people’s day to day life and helps in education and knowledge.   

The judgement passed in the Faheema Shirin v. State of Kerala was published by iPleaders, a blogpost website for law.    

Kashmir shutdowns  

Internet in Kashmir has shut down again after its restoration in the event of the death of Syed Ali Geelani. Inspector General of Kashmir zone, in his statement, said that it was a prudent step. Media Nama published the news.  

Last year, Ehtesham Hashmi, a supreme court advocate, was filed in the Supreme Court, stating that 4G internet access should be a fundamental right.  

In reply to this, the J&K administration denied the right to the internet as a fundamental right. The affidavit issued by the administration even mentioned that the security and integrity of the country are of utmost importance, the Hindustan Times reported. 

Internet shutdowns in India   

Despite Articles 14, 19 and 21 included in the Golden Triangle of the Indian Constitution, India saw the world’s highest number of internet shutdowns in 2020. Out of 155 shutdowns, India recorded 109 internet shutdowns last year, reported by India Today. According to Access Now, India registered a complete internet blackout 28 times.

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