Recently the Ashok Gehlot-led government in Rajasthan shut down internet services in several districts from February 25 to February 28 in view of a competitive examination for the recruitment of school teachers.
This comes a day after India topped the global list of internet shutdowns in democracies — with 84 shutdowns in 2022 — for the fifth year in a row, according to a report released by international digital rights organisation access now in collaboration with the #KeepItOn coalition. The Supreme Court refused an urgent hearing to a plea challenging the internet shutdown in parts of Rajasthan to curb cheating in competitive examinations, disagreeing with Advocate Vishal Tiwari, who told the court that the internet shutdown ‘adversely’ impacted the functioning of courts. The PIL was filed by one Chhaya Rai and sought framing of guidelines for implementing the government’s order on the internet shutdown citing the case of the Anuradha Basin Case in which certain guidelines were issued by the Supreme Court regarding the Internet shutdown.
In the case of Anuradha Bhasin Vs Union of India, pertaining to the internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir following the scrapping of Article 370, the apex court had ruled that an undefined restriction of internet services is illegal and orders for internet shutdown must satisfy the tests of necessity and proportionality.
The petitioner contended that “The internet shutdown order was passed to minimise the chances of cheating or copying in the examination. This shows the incompetence of the state government and the Rajasthan Public Service Commission. The apprehension of cheating and malpractice is vague and arbitrary”.
An urgent hearing of the matter was sought on March 3 by Adv. Tiwari. The bench said that “We will not hear this on Friday. We will keep it after the (Holi) vacation”.