India has seen numerous Internet shutdowns for various reasons in this year, all under the same provision of law – Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC). This section resides as the sole occupant under the chapter of ‘temporary measures to maintain public tranquility’ and gives State Governments the power to issue orders for immediate remedy in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger. However, the increasing use of this provision to completely shut down the Internet is becoming a cause of concern, for the reason that it amounts to a direct violation of the fundamental right to freedom of speech guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
The Internet is not only a medium to exercise the right to free speech and expression, but is correctly identified as a catalyst in the process of imparting, receiving, and sending information. This freedom is undisputedly fundamental for a democratic organization, moreover it is an enabler of other socio- economic and cultural rights. Similarly, the Internet is highly instrumental in facilitating a wide range of rights by providing a revolutionary platform in realization of free speech. Frank La Rue, the Special Rapporteur on protection and promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression appointed by the United Nations, while focusing on the point made above, also highlighted the changing nature of this right in relation to Internet proliferation in his report dated 16 May 2011.