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Internet and SMS services restricted in Amravati as district sees unrest

India has frequently been credited with the highest number of annual internet shutdowns in the world.

There’s a new internet shutdown incident in India and this time it’s in the Amravati district of Maharashtra, MediaNama has confirmed. Mobile internet and SMS services have been suspended in the district, according to Harshwardhan Pawar, district information officer. While the restrictions were put in place on November 13, they will continue until November 16.

An official order has been passed to that effect by the Maharashtra Home Department, Pawar said. However, MediaNama could not obtain and verify a copy of the order. The district has been under curfew after violence erupted reportedly in reaction to news of communal violence in Tripura.

In 2020, India recorded 109 out of 155 net shutdowns that took place worldwide, according to a report by Access Now. Last year, while hearing pleas that challenged curbs imposed in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, the Supreme Court declared that access to the internet is a fundamental right.


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Legal provisions related to internet shutdowns

The judgement in Bhasin v Union of India delivered by the Supreme Court asked magistrates signing off on internet shutdown orders to ‘apply their mind’ and ‘follow the doctrine of proportionality’. The judgement also said that such orders need to be placed in the public domain so that they can be challenged.

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The complete curb of the internet must be considered by the state only as an extraordinary measure. Any order that has been passed to restrict/suspend internet services shall be subject to judicial scrutiny. — Supreme Court of India

According to the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, 2017 only the Secretary of the State (independently or under instruction from the Secretary under Ministry of Home Affairs) can order internet shutdowns. An amendment to the rules, notified in November 2020, held that such orders can only be valid for 15 days at a time.

Related: There Needs To Be A Global Coalition For Tracking Internet Shutdowns

Three internet shutdowns in just 2 months

  • Rajasthan government shut down the internet in various districts to curb cheating during the administrative services examination being held in the state in October.
  • Kashmir saw restrictions on mobile internet services amidst civilian killings in October.
  • Haryana government restricted mobile internet services in at least three districts of Haryana in view of the Kisan Mahapanchayat in Karnal in September.

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Written By

I cover health technology for MediaNama, among other things. Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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