It’s been almost half a year since the internet services have still not been restored in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The internet services and SMS services were suspended in the valley after the abrogation of Article 370 by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre. The suspension of internet services in the valley is perhaps the longest shutdown in any democracy.
The Supreme Court on January 10th, 2020 stated that the ban in the valley without limiting it to a particular duration is not only violation of the telecom rules, but also of the freedom of speech and expression granted by the Constitution.
A three-judge bench comprising justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai, heard a clasp of petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Centre’s decision to lock down the valley following the abrogation of Article 370. The top court asked the J&K administration to review all restrictive orders imposed within a week.
It is pertinent to be mentioned that the Freedom of Speech and Expression, which includes the right to receive and disseminate information, has been violated in the valley.
According to a report, services were suspended for a total of 357 instances in India since 2014. India witnessed six internet shutdowns in 2014 while 14 in 2015, 31 in 2016, 79 in 2017, 134 in 2018 and 93 in 2019 so far.
Usually, under Indian laws, the government directs telecom companies to shut down their services or takedown sites if and whenever law and order situation deteriorates in any part of the country. Internet shutdowns are an often used tool in the country to crack down on dissent.
The decision of the government to disrupt internet connections has nullified the aim of forming digital India. It affects a country’s economy adversely. The government needs to ponder over the matter and find out an alternate way instead of suspending all internet services.
Photo Credit: The Indian Express (Representative Image)