The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre on a plea against Internet shutdowns by some states as a measure to prevent cheating during examinations.
Issuing notice on the plea by Software Freedom Law Centre, a bench of Chief Justice of India U U Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and P S Narasimha asked the government to “put in an affidavit… indicating whether there is any standard protocol with respect to the grievance raised by the petitioner and if so to what extent and how the protocol is adhered to and implemented”.
It gave the government three weeks time to file the affidavit.
The court initially noted that the petitioner had already filed petitions before different High Courts and, therefore, must go back to the High Courts. But Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for the petitioner, said it is a pan-India problem and that four states had been made parties.
She said that the power to impose Internet shutdown flows from the Indian Telegraph Act and that authorities refuse to publish these orders despite the top court ruling in the Anuradha Bhasin case asking them to do so.
Grover said that in Rajasthan, the state had told the High Court that it will no longer impose a shutdown for cheating but they did it again.
“What is the threshold? There is a legal question that is involved. Is this a public emergency or is this in the interest of public safety?…I’m not saying cheating should not be prevented… But would proportionality permit,” she said.
The CJI said maybe proportionality would require them to install jammers.
“They can keep my mobile devices, frisk,” said the counsel, adding that today everything is digital.