The Jammu and Kashmir government has issued 93 orders for the suspension of internet services in the Union Territory after the Supreme Court last year directed the administration to publish all such directives, a report by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology said on Wednesday.

This includes 76 orders issued by the competent authority to confirm directions by authorised officers for internet shutdown, the Kashmir Observer reported.

“All these orders are in the public domain and can be accessed on the official website of the home department,” the panel’s report stated.

On January 10, 2020, the Supreme Court had ruled that using the internet to exercise freedom of speech and to practice any profession or business is a fundamental right.

The court was hearing petitions against the communications blockade and other restrictions imposed in the erstwhile state since August 4, hours before the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution was removed and the state was split into two Union Territories.

The court had said that the suspension of internet services for an indefinite period would be subjected to judicial scrutiny. The judges noted that internet shutdown orders must be accompanied by detailed reasons to allow aggrieved persons to challenge it in court.

In its report, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology, headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, has called for a detailed assessment on the economic impact of prolonged internet shutdowns.

In March, a report published by digital rights and privacy organisation Access Now had shown that India had the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world in 2020. Of the total 155 internet shutdowns globally, India alone accounted for 109, according to the report.

The Parliamentary panel’s report stated that “public safety” and “public emergencies” – the grounds on which the government imposes internet shutdowns – had not been clearly defined. This has reduced the clampdown to a “routine policing and administrative tool”.

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