The Rajasthan High Court has issued notice on a public interest litigation challenging the validity of frequent "Internet Shutdown" orders being passed by the Divisional Commissioner of the area.
It is alleged that since the Supreme Court's orders in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, which held that internet shutdowns should be resorted to only in exceptional circumstances, at least 26 shutdown orders restricting internet access for around 506 hours in the Udaipur Division have been issued.
A division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manindra Mohan Shrivastava and Justice Madan Gopal Vyas has issued notices in the matter.
The public interest litigation has been filed by Udaipur Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as Hotel Association, Udaipur. It seeks a direction to the State to immediately publish all orders suspending internet services on its official websites as well as Twitter Handle i.e. @RajGovOfficial.
Moreover, the PIL sought direction to the respondent to ensure that the Review Committee records its findings in accordance with Rule 2(6) of the Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017. It also prayed for directions to the respondent to comply with the Apex Court's directions in Anuradha Bhasin.
In addition to this, the plea sought direction to the respondent to publish the findings of the Review Committee under Rule 2(6) of the Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 for each instance of internet suspension after the decision of Anuradha Bhasin, including but not limited to the 18 orders issued between 24.09.2020 and 28.09.2020, the 6 orders issued on 25.09.2021, and the orders issued on 27.10.2021.
The petitioners alleged that the people residing in Udaipur Division are aggrieved by the frequent and wanton suspension of internet services by the respondent through Divisional Commissioner, Udaipur. It states that these orders were issued to prevent cheating/ law and order concerns during exams or in response to protests, and as a result, individuals residing in Udaipur Division, including the petitioners, suffered irreparable economic loss.
Further, as per the plea, the respondent did not even publish a copy of these orders and the orders were obtained by the Internet Freedom Foundation through RTI application. The plea states that out of the 549 documented shutdowns since 2012, Rajasthan has issued orders for shutting down the internet 80 times.
The plea also states that this court had disposed of a plea in the case of Dhirendra Singh Rajpurohit v. State of Rajasthan [C.W. 10304/2018] on 28.11.2018, whereby respondents undertook on the affidavit that the Home Department had directed all Divisional Commissioners in Rajasthan not to suspend internet services during exams.
Senior Advocate Manish Shishodia represented the petitioner. The plea has been filed through advocates Vrinda Bhandari, Abhinav Sekhri, Tanmay Singh, Jaideep Singh Saluja, Krishnesh Bapat, Anandita Mishra and Amala Dasarathi.
Case Title: Udaipur Chamber of Commerce and Industry & Anr. v. State of Rajasthan