Jharkhand High Court: In a petition for Public Interest Litigation (‘PIL’) challenging the action of State authorities suspending internet services in Jharkhand seeking directions and production of proceedings leading to such decision, the Division Bench of Sanjaya Kumar Mishra, C.J. and Ananda Sen, J. directed the State to follow Supreme Court’s directions in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, (2020) 3 SCC 637 and Media Professionals v. State (UT OF J&K), (2020) 5 SCC 746, and upload all previous orders regarding suspension of internet services in the State within 48 hours on the State Government website.
The petition sought production and publication on the websites of orders passed by the State authorities on 7-02-2022, 10-06-2022 and 11-06-2022 to carry out suspension of internet in the State. It further sought quashment of the said orders and also the production of review proceedings and orders by Review Committee which led to suspension of internet in Jharkhand, and strict compliance with the Supreme Court’s guidelines in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, (2020) 3 SCC 637.
The State justified the said suspension of the internet by stating that the Home Secretary was informed that some incidents had taken place in certain regions of Jharkhand which might result in breach of public order, and that the emergent situation necessitated suspension of internet services in the districts of Hazaribagh, Giridih, Chatra, Koderma and Ramgarh. It further stated internet services were suspended for a few hours that “the main object was to prevent use of internet to spread rumor and fake information, which could lead to disturbance of law and order by virtue of power conferred under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 read with sub-rule (2A) of the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Amendment) Rules, 2020.”
Not finding any fault in the State’s action suspending internet services and taking note of the decision in Anuradha Bhasin (supra) and Foundation for Media Professionals v. State (UT OF J&K), (2020) 5 SCC 746, the Court directed the State to follow directions given by the Supreme Court in the said cases in future in similar circumstances. It further directed that all previous orders regarding suspension of internet services be uploaded within 48 hours in the State Government’s official website.
[Software Freedom Law Center v. State of Jharkhand, 2023 SCC OnLine Jhar 1403, Order dated 11-09-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioner: Advocate Shailesh Poddar
For Respondents: Additional Advocate General Jay Prakash, AC to AAG Yogesh Modi, AC to AAG Omiya Anusha