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Friday, March 05, 2021

Delhi violence: Govt snaps Internet in parts of Delhi, Haryana

For Internet shutdowns which are likely to continue for 24 hours or more, the orders have to be issued by the home secretary of the central or state government under the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885.

Written by Aashish Aryan | New Delhi |
Updated: January 27, 2021 7:50:55 am
Delhi violence, Delhi red fort violence, farmers protests, tractor rally republic day, Delhi internet shut, Delhi internet services, Indian ExpressFarmers hoisting their flag at the Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Tuesday ordered temporary suspension of Internet services in parts of Delhi, including Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri, Mukarba Chowk, Nangloi and their adjoining areas, from 12 noon to midnight.

The MHA order asked telecom operators to suspend Internet services in these areas “in the interest of maintaining public safety and averting public emergency”. Telecom service providers are bound by their licence agreements to comply with such government orders.

Citing official orders, operators also either suspended Internet services or slowed down speeds in several other parts of the National Capital Region (NCR). The operators, however, did not elaborate on details of the order. An email seeking these details sent to Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vi remained unanswered.

Later in the day, Internet services were also suspended for 24 hours, till 5 pm on January 27, in at least three districts of neighbouring Haryana, with the option to extend it further if the situation deteriorated, sources said. The three districts, Sonipat, Jhajjar and Palwal, are within a two-hour distance radius from Parliament.

Internet services in the NCR were last suspended in December 2019, during the anti-CAA protests. Acting on a Delhi Police order, telecom operators had then snapped all services, including voice and SMS, for four hours, between 9 am and 1 pm, on December 19, 2019.

Internet, voice, as well as other broadband telecom services, can be suspended citing public safety and security, either by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) or by the order of an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary or above, authorised by the Centre or the state home secretary in case of “unavoidable circumstances”.

For Internet shutdowns which are likely to continue for 24 hours or more, the orders have to be issued by the home secretary of the central or state government under the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885. Such orders, however, must contain detailed reasons for ordering the shutdown and be sent to a review committee the next day.

The committee examines the report, and, within five days, submits its observations about the shutdown and the current situation. The communications blockade can continue only if the review committee is satisfied that it is justified.

Most Internet shutdowns are done using the ‘kill switch’ on an individual tower-wise basis in respective areas. Following instructions from the authorities, the local unit of the telcos switches off power to the tower in that area, following which mobile phones in the area latch on to the nearest tower.

India tops the total number of Internet suspensions ordered by authorities every year, according to the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC)’s Internet shutdown tracker.

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