According to a report, the Supreme Court on Friday asked the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to respond to a request accusing states of arbitrarily shutting down internet access. The Supreme Court previously ruled in 2020 that undefined restrictions on internet services are illegal and that orders to shut down the internet must meet tests of necessity and proportionality. The state government regularly shuts down internet access in exam areas to curb cheating.
On Friday, a bench consisting of Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha asked MeitY to respond to the PIL filed by the Software Freedom Law Center, according to a PTI report. The request claims that internet services have been shut down in states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and West Bengal.
The Supreme Court reportedly asked the Center for details of an agreement to deal with the issue, while saying it chose to give notice to MeitY rather than the state where the internet shutdown occurred.
Internet shutdowns have been used to curb cheating in exams held in certain states, advocate Vrinda Grover told the Supreme Court that petitions had been filed in the high courts in Rajasthan and Kolkata.
The PIL refers to Rajasthan’s internet shutdown amid recent community tensions and attempts in various states to prevent cheating in competitive exams. The advocate also questioned whether proportionality would allow internet access to be shut down for this purpose, while adding that a parliamentary committee had said such measures should not be taken to prevent cheating.
According to the report, the bench said the court could be urged to follow the precedent set in the 2020 Anuradha Bhasin case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that orders to shut down the internet must satisfy tests of necessity and proportionality, as well as undefined restrictions Internet services are illegal.