Internet Freedom in India

Short Notes or Revision Notes

Question : Examine the landscape of internet freedom in India with a focus on state-imposed shutdowns.


  • India leads globally in internet shutdowns, accounting for 60% of worldwide blackouts.

State-Imposed Shutdowns

  • Reasons: National security & public order threats.
  • Examples: Protests against CAA (2019), Article 370 abrogation (2019), Farm Bills (2020).
  • Economic Impact: Over 70% of global shutdown losses in 2020.
  • Region Most Affected: Jammu and Kashmir

Legal Provisions

  • Grounds: “Public emergency” or “public safety” (Indian Telegraph Act).
    • Lacks definition of these terms.
  • Pre-2017: Shutdowns under CrPC Section 144 (unlawful assembly).
  • Post-2017: Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules (2017).

Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India Case (2020)

  • Supreme Court Ruling: Indefinite shutdowns unconstitutional.
  • Section 144 cannot be used to suppress protests.
  • Key Highlights:
    • Internet access is a fundamental right (Article 19).
    • Shutdowns must be temporary, not indefinite.
    • Orders imposing restrictions require publication.
    • Judicial scrutiny of shutdown orders.

Arguments for Shutdowns (Government)

  • National Security: Prevent misinformation, coordinate unlawful activities, address security threats.
  • Temporary & Targeted Measures: Address specific concerns, not long-term access.
  • Preventing Unrest & Violence: Disrupt online organization of protests and riots.
  • Countering Fake News: Limit online spread of misinformation during crises.

Arguments Against Shutdowns (Critics)

  • Freedom of Expression Violation: Infringes on the right to free speech.
  • Global Image & Investment: Hurts India’s image and discourages investment.
  • Human Rights Concerns: Limits access to information, free speech, and peaceful assembly.
  • Economic Disruptions: Creates significant economic losses for the growing digital economy.
  • Educational Challenges: Disrupts access to online learning resources and communication.
  • Lack of Transparency: Government needs clearer justifications and communication.


  • Democracies need justifications for internet shutdowns.
  • Transparency is crucial through order publication.
  • Indiscriminate shutdowns are costly and ineffective.
  • Civil society needs to push for a transparent and accountable system for better internet governance.


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