The ministry of communications has framed rules to be followed if the government intends to temporarily suspend telecom services in any part of the country. According to these rules, only the Home Secretary of the country and a secretary of a state’s home department can pass such an order. It also states that any such order should be taken up by a review committee within five days.
The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, dated August 7, says that any order passed by the relevant authority must “contain reasons for such direction” and a copy of the order should be forwarded to a review committee by the next working day. The review committee will comprise cabinet secretary and secretaries of telecom and legal affairs of the Centre, and chief secretary and two other secretaries in the state government. Under the new rules, all telecom service providers and the telegraph authority will have to designate officers in their licensed service areas as nodal officer “to receive and handle such requisitions for suspension of telecom services”.
The new rules came intro force on August 8 when the government published the notification in the official gazette. There had not been any codified process to block telecom services, including the Internet in the country. Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, empowers the government to block transmission of messages in case of a public emergency or for public safety. Section 69(A) of the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008, also gives the government powers to block particular websites.