The Indian Government’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) must create meaningful safeguards to protect people’s rights, and ensure unfettered access to an open, secure, and reliable internet for all.
Through an open letter, Access Now and a global coalition of civil society actors are calling on the government of India to review the current legal and regulatory framework governing internet shutdowns that has empowered authorities to implement the highest number of deliberate interferences for any country for five years in a row.
Internet shutdowns are exacerbating India’s digital divide. Those with wired internet retain connectivity, but the vast majority of people who rely on mobile internet are cut off. There is a fundamental contradiction between the government’s Digital India vision and the normalisation and entrenchment of internet shutdowns in India.Namrata Maheshwari, Asia Pacific Policy Counsel at Access Now
Recommendations in the joint letter include:
- Conduct a thorough, transparent review of the legal and regulatory framework relating to restrictions on internet access by inviting and incorporating feedback from all stakeholders;
- Maintain and publish an official database on internet shutdowns and implement other rights-respecting recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications and IT;
- Comply with the directions of the Supreme Court and make all shutdown orders public, including internet shutdowns ordered in previous years;
- Commit to revamping the legal regime and prioritising human rights; and
- Refrain from arbitrarily interfering with access to the internet.
Every internet shutdown is a human rights violation incompatible with the democratic traditions and global leadership the Indian government aims to showcase in the year of its G20 presidency. The courts, the parliament, and the people are demanding accountability and change from the government. The impunity around internet shutdowns must end.Raman Jit Singh Chima, Senior International Counsel and Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now
Indian authorities implemented at least 84 internet shutdowns in 2022, causing irreversible harm, and devastatingly impacting fundamental human rights and the economy — denying people the ability to communicate with loved ones, earn a livelihood, and access essential and life-saving services.
Read the open letter.