After 5 months of internet shutdown in Kashmir, the longest in any democracy, the Supreme Court gave constitutional validity to internet as a mean to exercise the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to carry on trade or business.
In a PIL filed by Kashmir Times on 10th August 2019, the Supreme Court said that internet shutdowns are open to challenge and open to judicial review.
Previously internet shutdowns could not be challenged as the laws which gave effect to internet shutdowns Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017 issued under the Telegraph Act did not provide for publication or notification of the order suspending Internet. The Supreme Court mandated publication of such orders, stating that “settled principle of law, and of natural justice” that requires publication of such orders, “particularly one that affects lives, liberty and property of people”. Such order should also contain the justification for passing that order. Repetitive of such orders was also declared to be abusive of such power.
The Apex court issued guidelines for imposing an internet shutdown. It should be implemented when alternatives of lesser intensity won’t suffice, and when internet shutdown would be a necessity and unavoidable. To further prevent arbitrariness of such order the court said the internet shutdowns cannot be imposed in apprehension of danger and can only been imposed in cases of real emergency.
The Supreme Court ruled that Expression through the Internet has gained contemporary relevance and is one of the major means of information diffusion and recognized internet to be an important means of doing business.
However, the Supreme Court did not decide upon the legality of the order passed in Kashmir and only asked the Center to review the order within a week.