Calcutta HC is an Exception to the Norm
Interestingly, the Calcutta High Court’s order is only the second instance where an internet shutdown order has been stayed by the judiciary.
This number appears disproportionately small when we consider that around 558 internet shutdowns have been imposed in India since 2012 – for which India has even been labelled the shutdown capital of the world.
Many, if not most of these orders, would have likely met the same fate as the order of the West Bengal Government if put to judicial scrutiny. These orders are usually issued for short durations and so petitions challenging them often become redundant by the time they are finally heard by the Court.
Despite being for short durations, these routine orders imposing internet shutdowns across the country have a cumulative and detrimental impact on fundamental rights. In 2021 alone, these shutdowns are estimated to have cost India $582.8 million.
This estimate is striking, and this is without even mentioning other costs to fundamental rights that are difficult to quantify.
However, we are yet to see courts appreciate the seriousness of internet shutdowns, especially when it comes to prioritising cases challenging shutdowns and ensuring swift remedies that efficaciously protect fundamental rights.
(Jahnavi Sindhu and Vikram Aditya Narayan are Delhi-based advocates. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)