Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

British-era Act invoked to Block Internet in Punjab


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Various laws, judgments mentioned

Mains level: Internet Shut-downs


  • The Union government invoked its authority under a colonial-era Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, 2017 to suspend mobile Internet in select districts of Punjab during Farm Protests 2.0.

Mechanisms allowing Internet Shut-downs

Authorities Purpose
Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 Home Departments in the states, state government review committee, central government (under this law, but rarely used) Enforces shutdowns for public emergency or safety reasons.
Section 144 of the CrPC Local law enforcement authorities Enables shutdowns, particularly before 2017, to maintain public order and safety.
The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Section 5(2) Home Secretary of the Union or state governments Allows blocking of messaging during a public emergency, safeguarding public safety, or protecting sovereignty and integrity.


Constitutional Provisions for Right to Internet

Constitutional Provision Explanation
Anuradha Bhasin vs. Union of India and Ors. (2020) Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a) Grants the right to freedom of speech and expression, which encompasses access to information and the Internet.
Faheema Shirin RK vs. State of Kerala and others (2019) Right to Education under Article 21A Guarantees the right to education for children aged 6 to 14;

Internet access is crucial for modern education.

K.S. Puttaswamy (Privacy) vs. Union of India (2017) Right to Privacy under Article 21 Protects the fundamental right to privacy, and Internet access is often used for secure communication.
Anuradha Bhasin vs. Union of India and Ors. Freedom to Practice Any Profession or Carry on Any Trade, Business, or Occupation under Article 19(1)(g) Ensures the freedom to conduct various trades, businesses, and professions, often requiring Internet access.

Landmark Precedence: Anuradha Bhasin Judgment (2020)

  • Supreme Court’s Ruling: In January 2020, the Supreme Court of India recognized access to the Internet as a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution.
  • Restrictions Guidelines: The Court mandated that any government-imposed Internet restrictions must be temporary, limited, lawful, necessary, and proportionate. It also emphasized judicial review.

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