In 2022, the Indian government ordered 84 internet shutdowns. India has been at the top of the list for cutting off the internet to its citizens for five years consecutively, as per a report by The Indian Express. The shutdowns were exercised for various reasons, including protests, school exams, and elections.
With 49 shutdowns to its credit, Jammu and Kashmir experienced the most shutdowns in 2022. This number includes the 16 back-to-back orders for three-day shutdowns in the region in January and February 2022. The government of Rajasthan imposed shutdowns on 12 different occasions. West Bengal ordered seven shutdowns in 2022, according to the report.
The newspaper quoted a report titled “Weapons of control, shields of impunity: Internet shutdowns in 2022”, which reported that since 2016, India has accounted for about 58 per cent of all documented internet shutdowns in the world.
Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, govern the internet shutdown regulations in the country. The law says temporary suspensions can be implemented “due to public emergency or public safety.” The law empowers senior bureaucrats from the home ministry and Centre and state levels to order shutdowns.
“Last year, India shut down the internet more than any other country on earth — 84 times… That’s 84 attacks on fundamental rights across the world’s biggest democracy,” the newspaper quoted Raman Jit Singh Chima, senior international counsel and Asia Pacific policy director at Access Now.
In their earlier report, Access Now said that administrators across the country had imposed 107 internet shutdowns in 2021. The number of shutdowns in 2022 is lower than in 2021.
In fact, 2022 was the first time the shutdowns were less than 100 since 2017, the report said.
The Access Now report comes when the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology has expressed concern over frequent internet shutdowns in the country. It underlined that the shutdowns were being imposed without any empirical study.
Telecom operators have also raised the issue of business disruption because of the internet shutdowns. They complained of customer dissatisfaction and revenue loss due to the shutdowns.