Mon, 16/12/2019 - 17:52

FSMI strongly condemns Internet Shutdowns across the country.

The Free Software Movement of India condemns the atrocious internet shutdowns across the country to stop democratic protests. In this year alone there have been 93 instances where the government shut down the internet in various places and more recently in Assam and Meghalaya. These actions by different arms of the government have made India no 1 in terms of shutting down the internet in the world, even surpassing authoritarian countries with dictators. Shutting down the internet achieves no purpose and in fact,  increases harm to people in the country. Especially in the case of Kashmir, Internet shutdowns have caused severe damage to people's mental and physical health with many unable to access emergency services.

   According to the judgment by the Kerala High court in Faheema Shirin. R.K vs. State Of Kerala, access to the internet is a basic right guaranteed under article 21. This judgment further guarantees students the right to access the internet and the state cannot arbitrarily suspend it. Further, The Supreme Court in S.Rengarajan and others v. P. Jagjivan Ram observed: "the fundamental freedom under Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted only for the purposes mentioned in Article 19(2) and the restriction must be justified on the anvil of necessity and not the quicksand of convenience or expediency."

In most cases of Internet shutdowns, the orders under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services 2017 are not even available in the public domain. The suspension rules are meant for emergencies and certainly protests by students of the country are not one. We demand communications to be restored across the country within 24 hours. Every internet shutdown has to be reviewed by a review committee within 5 days of the orders being issued. We demand the review committees be immediately constituted and the reports to be made public. We further demand the telecom suspension rules be revised to not continue these illegal shutdowns of internet with no public emergency on the ground.