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Delhi HC Dismisses Plea Challenging Internet Shutdown In Delhi Over CAA Protests

Karan Tripathi
24 Dec 2019 6:25 AM GMT
Delhi HC Dismisses Plea Challenging Internet Shutdown In Delhi Over CAA Protests
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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissed a PIL challenging the DCP's order of shutting down mobile interent services in Delhi on 19/12/2019 in light of the Citizenship Amendment Act protests.

While refusing to entertain the plea, the Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Hari Shankar declared that issuing writ is the prerogative of the court, and the Petitioners can make a representation before an appropriate authority.

Moved by Software Freedom Law Centre, the plea had sought the following directions from the court:

  • a. Issue certiorari to quash the order passed by Deputy Commissioner of Police PS Kushwah effectuating the internet shutdown in the city
  • b. Declare that the order passed by the DCP was not in accordance with Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017
  • c. Declare that the competent authority to pass such an order is Secretary to the Home Department of Union Government or Secretary to the Delhi State Home Department, or no officer below the rank of Joint Secretary to Home Department

The petition stated that DCP was not empowered to pass an order for suspension of telecom services as he's not the competent authority to do so under the 2017 Rules.

It was also argued that as per the media reports, internet shutdown also had an adverse effect on e-commerce activities, payment of bills, and the functioning of the startups.

Further, the Petitioner also claimed that no reasons were given for the continued operation of such a shutdown, which as of date, is still continuing.

The Petitioner had also cited the order of the Gauhati High Court, dated 19/12/19, where the court had dealt with similar facts of shutdown of telecom services. In that order, the court had observed that:

'while promulgation of order suspending telecom services might be justified due to the emergency situation, no material is shown to justify the continuation of such blockade, especially when the acute emergency situation has subsided.'

Arguing for Central Government, ASG Sanjay Jain informed the court that due process was followed while issuing the said orders.

It was also submitted that the said shutdown of telecom services was temporary and is no longer in continuation.

While refusing to entertain the plea, the court noted that as per the submissions made by the government, the suspension of telecom services were temporary and are no longer in continuation.

The court also went on to hold that if the Petitioner is shrugged aggrieved by the decision of the government, it can move the appropriate authority which will deal with the same in accordance with law.

On December 19, Delhi Police has promulgated an order for suspension of telecom services - SMS, voice calls and internet - for a period of 4 hours (9 am - 1 pm) for locations including walled city areas of north and central districts, Mandi House, Seelampur, Jaffarbad, Mustafabad, Jamia Nagar, Shaheen Bagh and Bawana.

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