The state government of West Bengal in India ordered Internet shutdowns in seven districts from 11:00 to 15:15 IST on March 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, and 16 to prevent exam question papers from being leaked.
Internet shutdowns during exams impact the ability of citizens to access online businesses, banking services, health services, educational institutions, or contact loves ones.
The Suspension Order was challenged in a petition filed by Ashlesh Biradar, a digital literacy fellow at Internet Freedom Foundation and a resident of West Bengal, on who argued that the Suspension Order was illegal because:
- It did not contain any material facts to demonstrate why it was necessary to suspend internet services;
- It was issued under Section 144 of the CrPC even though it is not permissible to do so, according to the decision of the Supreme Court in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India. Moreover, assuming that it could have been issued under Section 144 of the CrPC, it has been issued by an officer not empowered to issue such an order under the provision;
- It has not been issued because of a public emergency or on account of public safety, which are prerequisites for suspending internet services under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 (Telecom Suspension Rules);
- It does not comply with the directions of the Supreme Court in Anuradha Bhasin, as the Suspension Order was not published by the West Bengal Government, and also because it is disproportionate; and
- It restricts the right to speech guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
This is only the second time that a court in India has stayed an Internet suspension order.
Internet will be suspended in various districts #Malda, #CoochBehar, #Darjeeling, #Murshidabad, #UttarDinapur, #Jalpaigudi, #Birbhun in #WestBengal for 8 days b/w 7-9 March 11AM-3:15PM, 11-12 March, 14-16March. #LetTheNetWork pic.twitter.com/IrlVDJstgC
— InternetShutdowns.in (@NetShutdowns) March 6, 2022