According to a report by Access Now and the KeepItOn Coalition, India enforced as many as 84 internet shutdowns last year and topped the list of nations to have ordered internet shutdowns for the fifth straight year. The closures were ordered for a variety of reasons, including protests, conflict, school exams and elections.
In 2022, the internet was reportedly shut down 49 times in Jammu and Kashmir, the country’s highest state. This included a series of 16 consecutive orders for three-day shutdowns in January and February 2022 in the region. Authorities in Rajasthan imposed lockdowns on 12 separate occasions, followed by West Bengal, which ordered lockdowns seven times.
Since 2016, India has accounted for about 58 percent of all documented shutdowns worldwide, according to the report, titled Weapons of Control, Shields of Impunity: Internet Shutdowns in 2022.
Currently, internet shutdown orders are governed by the Temporary Suspension of Telecommunications Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules 2017. The rules, formulated by the DoT, state that temporary suspensions may be made “due to a public emergency or public safety” and give high-level Bureaucrats from the Department of the Interior at the central and state levels have the power to order shutdowns.
“Last year, India shut down the internet more times than any other country on earth — 84 times… That’s 84 attacks on fundamental rights in the world’s largest democracy,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, Senior International Counsel and Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now .
The Ministry of Communications did not respond to an immediate request for comment.
In their previous report, Access Now and the KeepItOn Coalition had said that the authorities in India had imposed 107 internet shutdowns, meaning the number of shutdowns in 2022 was lower than in 2021. However, they did
While 2022 saw fewer than 100 shutdowns in India for the first time since 2017, Access Now and the KeepItOn Coalition noted: “Legal challenges to shutdowns, fewer mass protests following the COVID-19 pandemic, and the continued and increasing crackdown on dissenters Opinions may have increased administrative friction or reduced incentives for authorities to impose closures.”
The report comes weeks after Parliament’s Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology raised its concerns about frequent internet shutdowns without empirical study and called the Department for Telecommunications (DoT) for failing to keep records of incidents and failing to implement several of its recommendations .
In its report on action taken, presented to Parliament earlier this month, the committee instructed the DoT, in coordination with the Home Office, to establish a clear proportionality principle and procedure for overturning the internet shutdown to prevent abuse of the suspension rules.
“The committee believes that a centralized database of all internet shutdowns by the states can be maintained by either the DoT or MHA in a manner similar to that maintained by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) at the MHA, which regularly collects information on specific aspects of crime which are municipal Unrest is part of it,” it said.
Telecom operators have also addressed the issue of business disruption due to Internet shutdowns. “Internet shutdowns are also affecting the business of telecom companies. People are migrating to other services during the shutdown. There needs to be a fixed revenue model to cover these losses,” SP Kochhar, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, which represents the three telecom companies, said in an interview with The Indian Express last year.