Global Freedom of Expression

Software Freedom Law Center, India v. State of Arunachal Pradesh & Ors

Decision Pending Mixed Outcome

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    September 9, 2022
  • Outcome
    Order Only, Order to publish a reply
  • Case Number
    Writ Petition (Civil) No.314/2022
  • Region
    Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    Supreme (court of final appeal)
  • Type of Law
    Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Internet Shutdowns
  • Tags
    Telecommunication Suspension

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 Analysis

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.  


Decision Overview

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

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Mixed Outcome

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.’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

Quick Info

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

Case Significance

Quick Info

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:

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:


Have comments?

Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.

Send Feedback