Stopping short of ordering immediate restoration of internet in Jammu and Kashmir or ruling on the validity of the shutdown, Supreme Court has called for a weekly review of internet suspension orders passed by local authorities. These reviews must lead to internet restoration. The verdict will go a long way towards constraining the ability of governments to wantonly impose Section 144 CrPC and indefinitely suspend internet over long periods and over large geographic areas, without due application of mind. SC has also ruled that authorities must publish internet suspension orders and state material facts in Section 144 orders to allow aggrieved citizens to pursue judicial review.
In a ringing endorsement of recent criticism of mobile shutdowns for their toxic effect on democracy and businesses, SC has declared that free speech and expression (Article 19(1)(a)) and right to carry on any trade (Article 19(1)(g)) using the medium of internet is constitutionally protected. The court also posed a conundrum for authorities by declaring that internet be restored forthwith for essential services like government websites, “localised/limited” e-banking facilities and hospitals in regions where internet may not be restored immediately. It remains to be seen how this partial restoration will be carved out. read more