The parliamentary panel on information technology (IT) on Tuesday asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to develop a framework for reviewing suspension of internet services in a region, including the time within which this will be done.
The panel’s observations came in the backdrop of a high-speed internet shutdown that has been in place in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir for over a year now, and on the day the Centre said that it would lift restrictions on high-speed 4G mobile internet services in one district each of Jammu and Kashmir divisions after August 15 on a trial basis.
The comments also come against the background of an increase in the number of Internet shutdowns in the country — usually for law and order, or security considerations. According to the Software Freedom Law Centre, 385 Internet shutdowns were recorded between January 2012 and March 15, 2020; 237 were observed to be preventive — restrictions were imposed in anticipation of law and order problems and 148 were reactive and imposed to contain ongoing breakdowns. Of these, nearly 100 incidents were recorded in 2019.
Most shutdowns were localised, extending to a district or a few districts, and, in the rare case, a state or union territory.
The decision to restrict access to Internet in J&K came in August last year after the Centre decided to strip the erstwhile state of its special status and divide it into two Union territories.
The central government has cited national security grounds for blocking high-speed 4G Internet services in the region. The Centre filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court on July 21, saying a special panel constituted as per the latter’s May 11 order has decided against any relaxations for now. It added the panel constituted for the review on June 10 considered all aspects of the matter, including terror strikes, before deciding to continue the restrictions on 4G services.
According to members of Parliament who participated in the meeting, the issue was discussed at length, including Supreme Court proceedings wherein the Centre said Internet services would be “gradually restored “in J&K after August 15 . Congress leader and chairperson of the IT pan