The Supreme Court also said that, 'repetitive orders under Section 144 CrPC will amount to an abuse of power.' (Photo Credit: File Photo)
The Supreme Court on Friday gave verdict on the Kashmir lockdown, which was imposed by the Narendra Modi government in wake of the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year. In one of the key observations that will have far-reaching implications, the Supreme Court said that the access to Internet is a fundamental right of every citizen under Article 19 (1) a. The top court also said that the internet ban can be imposed only when it is absolutely necessary. The observation comes at a time when the recurring internet curbs imposed by the government turned India into the digital shutdown capital of the world.
The apex court also said that, “repetitive orders under Section 144 CrPC will amount to an abuse of power.” The Supreme Court judgment was pronounced by a three-judge bench, headed by Justice NV Ramana. Other members of the bench are Justices R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai. The Supreme Court ruled on the reasonableness and proportionality of restrictions imposed in Kashmir, and also the duration of it.
On January 2, broadband internet connectivity was restored at 80 government hospitals, including health centres and offices linked to the health department, in the Kashmir Valley.
"Broadband high-speed internet connectivity restored at 80 government hospitals, including health centres and offices linked to the department of health, across Kashmir,” an official had said. Internet services were suspended in the Valley on the night of August 4, the day before the Centre announced abrogation of Article 370 provisions and bifurcation of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state into Union territories.
The Narendra Modi government on August 5 revoked Article 370 to take away Jammu and Kashmir's special status, and bifurcated the state into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, that redrew the map and future of a region at the centre of a protracted militancy movement.
The trend of internet shutdowns, which was compiled by a Delhi-based net shutdown tracker last year, shows the surge in 2019 also. In fact, such is the situation that an expert lamented on the internet freedom in India by giving example of China, which is not a democracy!
In his September 2018 paper The Legal Disconnect: An Analysis Of India’s Internet Shutdown Laws, Google public policy fellow Nakul Nayak wrote: “Between mid-2015 to mid-2016, over 19 countries suspended internet access. That number increased to more than 30 in 2017. Notable international examples include the Egyptian government cutting internet services in its entire country for over four days, with China doing the same in its Xinjiang province for over 10 months," writes “However, it is India that has the dubious distinction of witnessing the most number of shutdowns in the world," he added.