An intentional disruption of internet services for a specified population or within a certain geographic area is referred to as an internet shutdown. There are several ways to execute internet shutdowns, such as disconnecting the physical infrastructure, limiting access to particular websites or platforms, or decreasing the speed of the internet as a whole. They range from blocking the free press and access to life-saving information, to interfering with democratic elections and facilitating coups, to hiding alleged war crimes and genocide. At a time when India is leveraging the impacts of a generative technology like the Internet to give boost and expression to Digital India, the rising number of shutdowns epitomizes the difficulties on the pathway to realising India’s digital ambitions.


Internet shutdowns can take various forms, and governments or authorities may implement different methods to disrupt internet services. Here are some common types of internet shutdowns:

Total Internet Shutdown: A complete internet shutdown involves the complete cessation of internet services for a particular region or population. A total shutdown of websites, internet forums, and communication services is part of this.

Partial Internet Shutdown: Restricting or preventing access to particular websites, social media networks, or online services is known as a partial internet shutdown. This can be used to manage information flow during particular occasions or emergencies.

Fundamental Infrastructure Shutdown: Any shutdown that is brought about by physical damage to the communications infrastructure or that is executed by a device not part of the communications system itself is categorized as a fundamental infrastructure shutdown. Such shutdowns are detected by companies that track internet traffic flows, individuals, both within the affected population, and external to the affected population, that run network tests. 

Routing: Modifying network routing was among the first methods of implementing a shutdown and is still a popular practice today. This is different from a fundamental shutdown in that the internet or telecommunications are implemented in the software, rather than a physical telecommunications system (like a power grid) being attacked.
How it works: to prevent traffic from passing to other infrastructure, routing information is changed at crucial locations in the network infrastructure, such as foreign gateways, resulting in the shutdown. 

Domain Name System Manipulation: DNS tampering is the act of changing the DNS infrastructure in order to prevent or reroute traffic to particular websites. This could be a focused way to limit who has access to what data. The violators (usually the government) and all the telecom providers in the area that is intended for the shutdown must work together to activate this shutdown method. 

Filtering: Filtering devices often return a page stating that the requested page is blocked and referencing the applicable government legislation used to enforce the block when a subscriber tries to visit a blocked website. Nevertheless, occasionally the gadgets are set up to erroneously lead users to an error page that suggests the resource they initially requested isn’t available.

Deep Packet Inspection: Deployed supposedly for surveillance purposes, such as fighting organized crime or safeguarding national security, DPI infrastructure is present in many nations. DPI shares many of the characteristics of filtering with regard to the commercial availability of products, the need for close vendor involvement to implement and maintain the technology on a national scale, etc.

Rogue Infrastructure Attack: Attacks against rogue infrastructure entail getting illegal access to vital networks, like communication, transportation, and power services. The normal operation of critical infrastructure systems may be manipulated or interfered with by the attackers. This can entail modifying control systems, interfering with communication networks, or physically harming equipment.

Throttling: Throttling is a technique that internet service providers (ISPs) may employ to restrict how much data a user can upload or download in a certain amount of time. This is frequently done to enforce data consumption regulations, prioritize particular types of traffic, and control network congestion. The deliberate reduction of available bandwidth for a specific user, application, or service is known as bandwidth throttling. This may lead to decreased performance from online activities overall and slower internet speeds.


Internet shutdowns can potentially violate several principles outlined in constitutional frameworks. Here are some ways in which internet shutdowns may be seen as infringing on constitutional principles: 

Freedom of Speech and Expression: The freedom of expression is protected by the constitutional framework of India under Article 19(1)(a). It has been identified as a fundamental right in the landmark case of Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India. Shutdowns of the internet can impede this freedom by preventing people from sharing their thoughts, getting information, or interacting online. 

Right to Information: A shutdown of the internet severely limits people’s capacity to exercise their right to information. Denying citizens access to online information sources impairs their knowledge, makes it more difficult for them to make educated decisions, and threatens the essential democratic values of access to information. In Raj Narain v State of U.P. the Hon’ble court has recognised right to information as a fundamental right in our country under Article 19(1).

Freedom of Assembly and Association: The right to assemble and associate is a fundamental constitutional principle. Internet shutdowns can obstruct these rights by limiting the ability of individuals to organize and communicate through online platforms, especially during protests or social movements. This was recognised as a fundamental right in the leading case of Kameshwar Prasad v State of Bihar.

Right to Privacy: The government  uses surveillance techniques to keep an eye on conversations during an internet outage. This may entail violating people’s right to privacy by intercepting emails, messages, and other types of internet communication.
During an internet outage, government organizations or internet service providers (ISPs) might gather and store a lot of data. Infringing on the right to privacy, this may entail following users’ online activity, gathering personal data, and retaining data without the required authorization.

Right to Education: Due to the growing dependence of students on digital tools and online learning environments, access to educational materials and platforms is disrupted by an internet outage. In Faheema Shirin v State of Kerela it was held that restricting access to internet violated students’ rights to access information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, and their rights to education and privacy under Article 19(1)(g). Arbitrary and disproportionate internet shutdowns violate these, and several other rights.


There have been instances of internet shutdowns in India, primarily during periods of civil unrest, protests, or to prevent the spread of misinformation. Such instances include;

Jammu and Kashmir: The area of Jammu and Kashmir has seen instances of internet shutdowns particularly following events or periods of unrest. Authorities, in this region have consistently employed shutdowns, as a standing strategy. According to the Internet Shutdown Tracker by SFLC Jammu and Kashmir have experienced the highest number of internet shutdowns in India almost 433 times as of 2024.

One of the most prominent internet shutdowns in Kashmir happened in 2019. Lockdown started on 5 August 2019 following Revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir via scrapping of the Article 370 of the Constitution of IndiaArticle 35A of the Constitution of India and the introduction of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. The editor of the Srinagar edition of the Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin, contested the protracted internet blockade in Kashmir. She maintained that the government caused the media to “come to a grinding halt” by shutting down the internet, which is vital for the press. In Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India,  the Supreme Court of India ruled that an indefinite suspension of internet services would be illegal under Indian law and that orders for internet shutdown must satisfy the tests of necessity and proportionality.

Manipur: Manipur had the world’s longest internet blackout in 2023, spanning more than 5,000 hours across several days. The first shutdown, which started in May 2023, was brought on by ethnic conflicts between the Kuki and Meitei clans. Shutdowns followed in reaction to heightened tensions or scheduled demonstrations. The state-wide mobile internet ban was declared illegal by the Manipur High Court, which also mandated its reinstatement in December 2023. Nonetheless, some conflict zones continue to have targeted restrictions, which raises questions about discrimination and proportionality. 

Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) Protests (2019-2020): During protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in various parts of the country, including Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, there were instances of localized internet shutdowns to control the flow of information and communication.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS: Argument in favour-

Maintaining Public Order: Internet shutdowns, according to their proponents, may be required to stop the transmission of false information, rumours, and incitement to violence, particularly during times of critical events, protests, or civil disturbance. Internet shutdowns are viewed as a precautionary measure to preserve public order and guard against possible harm.

Concerns about national security: Governments may claim that blocking the internet is essential for maintaining national security. One of their goals is to stop the coordination of terrorist, criminal, and other threats to the country through restricting online communication.  

Stopping the Incitement and Spread of Hate Speech: There are others who think that blocking access to the internet is a good way to stop hate speech, incitement, and other inflammatory content from spreading and causing violence or unrest in communities.

Protection of Critical Infrastructure: Internet outages may be appropriate in some dire circumstances, such as those involving natural catastrophes or security risks, in order to shield vital infrastructure from criminal activity or cyberattacks.
Law Enforcement Operations: To prevent information from spreading that would jeopardize the safety of those participating in the operation, internet shutdowns may be used during law enforcement operations.


Although India is regarded as the largest democracy in the world, it also has the unpleasant reputation of having the most Internet shutdowns globally. In 2020 alone, 109 shutdowns occurred in the country. By contrast, the nation with the second highest number of shutdowns (Yemen), had only six.

The growing dependence on the internet for commerce, education, communication, and civic involvement highlights the need to strike a balance between security considerations and the defence of fundamental rights. A more responsible course of action is suggested: transparent and proportionate steps, aimed to address particular issues without resorting to blanket shutdowns. The debate about internet shutdowns is still complicated and constantly changing as the world gets more linked. In order to effectively address legitimate security concerns in a way that aligns with democratic ideals and human rights, governments, legislators, and civil society must have meaningful conversations about how to handle the issues presented by the potential abuse of internet shutdowns.

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