A whole lot of stuff is happening in India’s net neutrality scene right now. In a fresh landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of India said that the state and district governments would continue to posses the power to enact a limited ban on mobile Internet, in order to forestall and prevent any law and order related issue.
The ruling stemmed from the events of last year in Gujarat, when the state government imposed a 10 day, limited ban on data services in different cities to curb the Patidar agitation led by Hardik Patel.
The government had backed its ban through Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which allows governmental bodies to take drastic measures for short durations of time. The decision was initially challenged in the high court by a PIL, which however, through the case out on its head.
Another student and social media activist, Gaurav Sureshbhai Vyas then moved the appeal to the supreme court. However, upholding the high court ruling, a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice R Bhanumathi said,
What is wrong with such a ban? There can be such a ban for law and order,
The defense counsel did try to parry by stating that the special, Indian Telegraph Act already allowed the government the privilege of banning websites and such, thus making the decision taken under CrPC, redundant — considering that the latter is a general statute.
However, the bench refused the argument as well, stating that there can be concurrent powers to deal with such a situation and in fact, were sometimes made necessary.
Well, the court certainly didn’t win any friends among internet and freedom of speech activists, who are comparing this decision to granting the government arbitrary powers — which can be vastly misused by the government in cutting access to communication channels during protests.
What’s next I wonder? A blanket ban on speaking against the workings of government officials?