Software Freedom Law Center, India v. State of Arunachal Pradesh & Ors
Decision Pending Mixed Outcome
- Mode of Expression
Electronic / Internet-based Communication
- Date of Decision
September 9, 2022
Order Only, Order to publish a reply
- Case Number
Writ Petition (Civil) No.314/2022
Asia and Asia Pacific
- Judicial Body
Supreme (court of final appeal)
- Type of Law
Content Attribution Policy
Global Freedom of Expression is an academic initiative and therefore, we encourage you to share and republish excerpts of our content so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and you respect the following policy:
- Attribute Columbia Global Freedom of Expression as the source.
- Link to the original URL of the specific case analysis, publication, update, blog or landing page of the down loadable content you are referencing.
Attribution, copyright, and license information for media used by Global Freedom of Expression is available on our Credits page.
Case Summary and Outcome
On September 9, 2022, the Supreme Court of India passed an order issuing a notice to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in a petition challenging the constitutionality of the internet shutdowns. The Suspension Orders restricting the internet were issued to prevent students from cheating during examinations in the five states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and West Bengal. The Court asked the Ministry of Communications to put in a response, indicating whether there is any Standard Protocol for an internet shutdown during examinations that exists and if so, then to what extent and how the said Standard Protocol was adhered to and implemented. The Court directed the Ministry to file a response within three weeks from September 9, 2022, and was listed for hearing on October 14, 2022. The matter remains pending before the Supreme Court of India.
Between 2018-2021, the State Governments of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and West Bengal issued approx 15 internet Suspension Orders. Taking consideration of such frequent internet shutdown orders, Software Freedom Law Center filed a petition challenging the arbitrary imposition of Internet Shutdowns during examinations.
Chief Justice U.U Lalit (then), J. Ravindra Bhatt, and J. Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha of the Supreme Court issued the notice order.
The Petitioner in its petition contended that the suspensions of the internet by the respective State Governments are not only unconstitutional but are contrary to the procedure established by law. These suspension orders violate Article 14 (Equality), Article 19 (Freedom of expression) and Article 21 (Privacy) of the Constitution of India. The control of malpractices and cheating during examination is not a valid ground for suspension of internet services under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 and Section 5 (2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.
The Petitioner referred to Banka Sneha Sheela v. State of Telangana (2021) to contend that, these internet suspension orders affect only a small section of individuals or deal with ‘law and order’ situations, do not constitute a threat to ‘public order’, and consequently cannot be cited to justify a shutdown of telecom and internet services. Moreover, the State Government also failed to satisfy the test of the doctrine of proportionality laid down by the Supreme Court in Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India. The Petition prayed to the Court, to direct the respective State Government to adhere to the guidelines laid in the Anuradha Bhasin case; prevent the abuse of authority to impose unjust and disproportionate internet shutdowns, and lay down a standard framework to ensure that internet shutdowns are not unjustly imposed in the country.
The Court in its order dated September 9, 2022, observed that, at this stage, the Court can issue a notice to the Ministry of Electronics Communication and Information technology, to submit an affidavit explaining whether there is any Standard Protocol concerning internet shutdown on the pretext of examinations. The Court further observed that if the Standard Protocol does exist, then also explain in the affidavit, to what extent the Protocol was followed and how it was followed.
The Court listed the matter for hearing on October 20, 2022, and the matter still remains pending before the Court.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has been tracking internet shutdowns in India since 2012, so far they have recorded 552 instances of Internet shutdowns in their database. SFLC.in’s Internet Shutdowns Tracker, the first and only real-time internet shutdown tracker in India. Each instance of Internet shutdown is counted primarily based on at least one of these factors, news reports; and/or responses received to RTI applications. India is among the top nations which impose internet shutdowns. For now, the decision is limited to knowing the Government’s threshold for restricting the internet, however, taking into consideration of the frequent violations of digital rights, the Court is anticipated to take an active role in protecting Digital Constitutionalism in India.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Table of Authorities
National standards, law or jurisprudence
- India, Constitution (1949), art. 14.
- India, Constitution of India (1949), art. 19.
Article 19 (1) (a), Article 19 (1) (b), Article 19 (1) (g), Article 19 (2), Article 19 (6)
- India, Const. art. 32
- India, Bhasin v. Union of India (2020), Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1031/2019.
- India, Justice KS Puttuswamy and Anr. v. UOI and Ors., (2017) 10 SCC 1
- India, Dhirendra Singh Rajpurohit v. State of Rajasthan, D.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 10304/2018 (2018)
- India, Haresh Dayaram Thakur v. State of Maharashtra & Others, (2000) 6 SCC 179
- India, M. P. Wakf Board v. Subhan Shah (D) By Lrs. & Others, (2006) 10 SCC 696
- India, Commissioner of Income Tax, Mumbai v. Anjum M. H. Ghaswala & Others, 1 SCC 633 (2002)
- India, State of Uttar Pradesh v. Singhara Singh & Others, AIR 1964 SC 358
- India, People's Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, (1997) 1 S.C.C. 301
- India, Banka Sneha Sheela v. State of Telangana, 9 SCC 415 (2021)
- India, B.K. Srinivasan v. State of Karnataka, 1 SCC 65 (1987)
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.
Official Case Documents
Official Case Documents:
- Writ Petition (Civil) No.314/2022, (Order 09.09.2022)
- Writ Petition (Civil) No.314/2022, (Order 02.09.2022)
Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:
- Sflc.In's Writ Petition Challenging Arbitrary Internet Shutdowns During Examinations In The Supreme Court Of India (2022):
- On Challenge to Internet Shutdowns During Exams, SC Asks Centre: ‘What Is the Protocol? (2022):
- Supreme Court seeks IT ministry's response on protocol for internet shutdowns (2022)
- SC Asks Centre to File Response Outlining Procedures for Internet Shutdowns (2022)
- India’s Supreme Court demands government detail internet shutdown rules (2022)
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.