The Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition against the deputy commissioner of police’s direction of an internet shutdown in the national Capital on December 19 during the Citizenship Amendment Act protests, saying there was no reason to interfere as the order was temporary, Live Law reported.
Voice, internet and SMS services were blocked for around four hours in some parts of the city and over 1,200 protestors were detained for defying prohibitory orders near the Red Fort.
The High Court’s division bench, comprised of Chief Justice DN Patel and Hari Shankar said that issuance of a writ was the court’s prerogative. It added that the petitioner, Software Freedom Law Centre, may make a representation before an appropriate authority. “If there is any person who is aggrieved by the order passed on December 18, 2019 by the DCP, he can file his own writ petition or seek damages in accordance with law,” Bar and Bench quoted the bench as saying.
The plea sought to quash Deputy Commissioner of Police PS Kushwah’s internet shutdown order, declaring that it did not adhere to the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017. It also urged the court to declare that the competent authority to pass such an order was the secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs or Delhi’s Home Department secretary or an officer at or above the rank of joint secretary to the Home Department.
The petitioners said that Kushwah was not empowered to pass the internet shutdown order under the 2017 rules. The shutdown had impacted e-commerce activities, bill payments, and startups’ operations, the plea noted.
It also referred to the Gauhati High Court order of December 19 where the judges noted that telecom services may be suspended during emergencies. However, its continuation was not justified “especially when the acute emergency situation has subsided”, Live Law reported.
Additional Solicitor General of India Sanjay Jain, representing the Centre, argued that due process was followed to pass the order. He added that there was no communication shutdown in the national Capital.