CCG’s Comments to the Department of Telecommunications on the Draft Telecommunication Bill, 2022

On 21st September 2022, the Department of Telecommunications (“DoT”) released the Draft Telecommunication Bill, 2022 for feedback and public comments. The draft is based on the consultation paper on ‘Need for a new legal framework governing Telecommunication in India’ which was published by the DoT in July 2022. The proposal aims to replace three laws: the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950.

CCG submitted its comments on the Bill, highlighting its feedback and key concerns. The comments were authored by Aishwarya Giridhar, Priyanshi Dixit, Sidharth Deb, reviewed and edited by Jhalak M. Kakkar, Shashank Mohan, Sachin Dhawan with research help from Shreenandini Mukhopadhyay and Shreya Parashar. 

CCG’s key comments on the Government of India’s proposals under the Bill are divided into 6 parts –

Exclude digital/ internet based services from telecommunication regulation

The Information Technology Act, 2000 (“IT Act”) exclusively deals with issues pertaining to the internet and digital platforms, and provides corresponding regulation and user safeguards. The Bill’s proposed inclusion of digital services within telecommunications law may create a parallel legal regime and regulatory confusion that hinders innovation and the ease of doing business. Additionally, this Bill would likely subsist in parallel to the forthcoming Digital India Act which is under development at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (“MeitY”). Therefore, we propose that the telecommunication regulation in India should not include digital services as it would create dual compliances for services which will negatively impact India’s overall internet ecosystem.

Revisit the Premise of Licensing Internet Based Digital and Software Services

Telecom Service Providers (“TSPs”) require a license to operate in the market since their operations are dependent on the use of spectrum, which is a limited natural resource. It is based on this scarcity that the Government grants exclusive licenses to access and use spectrum to select service providers. The Government’s privilege in this regard emerges from spectrum scarcity and the public trust doctrines. Conversely, internet based services do not function with the same scarcities and resource requirements as TSPs. Instead, they offer their services over the internet/ telecom network infrastructure. The internet is an ecosystem of abundance and thus digital service providers need not contend with the same infrastructural scarcities as network operators. Since OTTs services do not require exclusive allocation of a scarce public resource like spectrum, imposing strict licensing requirements on them would hinder innovation, consumer choice and user accessibility.

The Bill Should Avoid One Size Fits All Regulation

The Bill in its current form deploys overbroad definitions for several terms including “telecommunication services” and “message”. This particular definition will envelope all OTT communication services, data communication services, email, and other digital platforms within a common licensing regime as all telecom services. Aside from compromising the principle of legal certainty, this overbroad definition contributes to a one size fits all regulatory approach for both carriage and content providers. Such a broad approach is antithetical to the internet’s innate characteristics and heterogeneities across its network stack. It is also inconsistent with the growing international and domestic consensus that the internet requires differential regulations which are curated to the features and contextual harms which are native to specific types of platforms and services. 

The Bill’s Interception Proposals are Overbroad and may Violate Constitutional Rights

The Bill allows the State to order the interception of messages transmitted over telecommunication services or networks in specific situations. The broad definition in the Bill allows this provision to broadly apply to all messages communicated over all digital services, which may amount to a disproportionate restriction on users’ right to privacy. Under Indian jurisprudence, measures restricting privacy must: (a) be provided by law; (b) pursue a legitimate aim and be necessary in a democratic society; (c) be proportionate to the need for the interference with the right to privacy; and (d) contain procedural safeguards to prevent against abuse. Existing provisions permitting interception must be re-examined for conformity with these standards and recent Supreme Court jurisprudence. Additionally, interception provisions in the Bill overlap with those in the IT Act and risks creating a parallel regulatory regime over digital services. 

The Bill’s ID Verification Proposals may Violate Constitutional Rights to Privacy and Free Expression

The Bill requires service providers to identify users of their services, and also requires the identity of persons sending messages over telecommunication services to be made available to the recipient. Although these measures may have sought to target cyber-fraud, they will also serve to effectively remove anonymity in online communications. Online anonymity and encrypted services can however play a key role in protecting user privacy and the right to free expression, and mandated identity verification systems can significantly restrict these rights, particularly for minorities and vulnerable populations.

Provisions relating to the Suspension of Telecommunications Services Would Restrict the Right to Free Expression

The Bill authorises the State to direct the suspension of communications transmitted or received by telecommunication networks. It allows for the suspension of ‘telecommunication services’, which would include all digital services, along with phone calls, text messaging, etc. This provision would expand the ambit of suspension powers to allow states to restrict or blacklist specific services, in addition to restricting access to the internet as a whole. The internet plays a key role in exercising fundamental rights such as free expression and education, and in accessing essential services. Wide powers to restrict access to the internet as a whole, as well as specific services can therefore significantly restrict the fundamental rights of users.

You can read CCG’s full submission to the DoT here.

Technology and National Security Law Reflection Series Paper 12 (B): Contours of Access to Internet as a Fundamental Right

Shreyasi Tripathi*

About the Author: The author is a 2021 graduate of National Law University, Delhi. She is currently working as a Research Associate with the Digital Media Content Regulatory Council.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Reflection Series showcasing exceptional student essays from CCG-NLUD’s Seminar Course on Technology & National Security Law.  Along with a companion piece by Tejaswita Kharel, the two essays bring to a life a fascinating debate by offering competing responses to the following question:

Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s pronouncement in Anuradha Bhasin that access to the internet is an enabler of other rights, but not a fundamental right in and of itself? Why/why not? Assuming for the sake of argument, that access to the internet is a fundamental right (as held by the Kerala High Court in Faheema Shirin), would the test of reasonableness of restrictions be applied differently, i.e. would this reasoning lead to a different outcome on the constitutionality (or legality) of internet shutdowns?

Both pieces were developed in the spring semester, 2020 and do not reflect an updated knowledge of subsequent factual developments vis-a-vis COVID-19 or the ensuing pandemic.


Although it did little to hold the government accountable for its actions in Kashmir, it would be incorrect to say that the judgment of Anuradha Bhasin v. The Union of India is a complete failure. This reflection paper evaluates the lessons learnt from Anuradha Bhasin and argues in favour of access to the internet as a fundamental right, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Image by Khaase. Licensed under Pixabay License.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Anuradha Bhasin judgement is the fact that the Government is no longer allowed to pass confidential orders to shut down the internet for a region. Moreover, the reasons behind internet shutdown orders must not only be available for public scrutiny but also be reviewed by a Committee. The Committee will need to scrutinise the reasons for the shutdown and must benchmark it against the proportionality test. This includes evaluating the pursuit of a legitimate aim, exploration of suitable alternatives, and adoption of the least restrictive measure while also making the order available for judicial review. The nature of the restriction,  its territorial and temporal scope will be relevant factors to determine whether it is proportionate to the aim sought to be achieved. The court also expanded fundamental rights to extend to the virtual space with the same protections. In this regard, the Court  made certain important pronouncements on the right to freedom of speech and expression. These elements will not be discussed here as they fall outside the scope of this paper. 

A few months prior in 2019, the Kerala High Court recognised access to the internet as a fundamental right. Its judgement in Faheema Sharin v. State of Kerala, the High Court addressed a host of possible issues that arise with a life online. Specifically, the High Court recognised how the internet extends individual liberty by giving people a choice to access the content of their choice, free from control of the government. The High Court relied on a United Nations General Assembly Resolution to note that the internet “… facilitates vast opportunities for affordable and inclusive education globally, thereby being an important tool to facilitate the promotion of the right to education…” – a fact that has only strengthened in value during the pandemic. The Kerala High Court held that since the Right to Education is an integral part of the right to life and liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution, access to the internet becomes an inalienable right in and of itself. The High Court also recognised the value of the internet to the freedom of speech and expression to say that the access to the internet is protected under Art. 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and can be restricted on grounds consistent with Art. 19(2).


In the pandemic, a major reason why some of us have any semblance of freedom and normalcy in our lives is because of the internet. At a time when many aspects of our day to day lives have moved online, including education, healthcare, shopping for essential services, etc. – the fundamental importance of the internet should not even be up for debate. The Government also uses the internet to disseminate essential information. In 2020 it used a contact tracing app (Aarogya Setu) which relied on the internet for its functioning. There also exists a WhatsApp chatbot to give accurate information about the pandemic. The E-Vidya Programme was launched by the Government to allow schools to become digital. In times like this, the internet is not one of the means to access constitutionally guaranteed services, it is the only way (Emphasis Added)

In  this context, the right of access to the internet should be read as part of the Right to Life and Liberty under Art. 21. Therefore, internet access should be subject to restrictions only based on procedures established by law. To better understand what shape such restrictions could take, lawmakers and practitioners can seek guidance from another recent addition to the list of rights promised under Art. 21- the right to privacy. The proportionality test was laid down in the Puttaswamy I judgment and reiterated in  Puttaswamy II (“Aadhaar Judgement”). In the Aadhar Judgement  when describing the proportionality for reasonable restrictions, the Supreme Court stated –

…a measure restricting a right must, first, serve a legitimate goal (legitimate goal stage); it must, secondly, be a suitable means of furthering this goal (suitability or rational connection stage); thirdly, there must not be any less restrictive but equally effective alternative (necessity stage); and fourthly, the measure must not have a disproportionate impact on the right-holder (balancing stage).” –

This excerpt from Puttaswamy II provides as a defined view on the proportionality test upheld by the court in Anuradha Bhasin. This means that before passing an order to shut down the internet the appropriate authority must assess whether the order aims to meet a goal which is of sufficient importance to override a constitutionally protected right. More specifically, does the goal fall under the category of reasonable restrictions as provided for in the Constitution. Next, there must be a rational connection between this goal and the means of achieving it. The appropriate authority must ensure that an alternative method cannot achieve this goal with just as much effectiveness. The authority must ensure that the method being employed is the least restrictive. Lastly, the internet shutdown must not have a disproportionate impact on the right holder i.e. the citizen, whose right to freedom of expression or right to health is being affected by the shutdown. These reasons must be put down in writing and be subject to judicial review.

Based on the judgment in Faheema Sharin, an argument can be made how the pandemic has further highlighted the importance of access to the internet, not created it. The reliance of the Government on becoming digital with e-governance and digital payment platforms shows an intention to herald the country in a world that has more online presence than ever before. 


People who are without access to the internet right now* – people in Kashmir, who have access to only 2G internet on mobile phones, or those who do not have the socio-economic and educational means to access the internet – are suffering. Not only are they being denied access to education, the lack of access to updated information about a disease about which we are still learning could prove fatal. Given the importance of the internet at this time of crisis, and for the approaching future, where people would want to avoid being in crowded classrooms, marketplaces, or hospitals- access to the internet should be regarded as a fundamental right.

This is not to say that the Court’s recognition of this right can herald India into a new world. The recognition of the right to access the internet will only be a welcome first step towards bringing the country into the digital era. The right to access the internet should also be made a socio-economic right. Which, if implemented robustly, will have far reaching consequences such as ease of social mobility, increased innovation, and fostering of greater creativity.

*Views expressed in the blog are personal and should not be attributed to the institution.

Technology and National Security Law Reflection Series Paper 12(A): Contours of Access to Internet as a Fundamental Right

Tejaswita Kharel*

About the Author: The author is a 2021 graduate of National Law University, Delhi. She is currently working as a lawyer in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her interests lie in the area of digital rights, freedom of speech and expression and constitutional law.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Reflection Series showcasing exceptional student essays from CCG-NLUD’s Seminar Course on Technology & National Security Law. Along with a companion piece by Shreyasi Tripathi, the two essays bring to a life a fascinating debate by offering competing responses to the following question:

Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s pronouncement in Anuradha Bhasin that access to the internet is an enabler of other rights, but not a fundamental right in and of itself? Why/why not? Assuming for the sake of argument, that access to the internet is a fundamental right (as held by the Kerala High Court in Faheema Shirin), would the test of reasonableness of restrictions be applied differently, i.e. would this reasoning lead to a different outcome on the constitutionality (or legality) of internet shutdowns?

Both pieces were developed in the spring semester, 2020 and do not reflect an updated knowledge of subsequent factual developments vis-a-vis COVID-19 or the ensuing pandemic.


The term ‘internet shutdown’ can be defined as an “intentional disruption of internet or electronic communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable, for a specific population or within a location, often to exert control over the flow of information”.1 It has become a tool used by States against residents of the country in question when they are faced with some imminent threat to law and order or a certain breakdown of law and order. It is used with the belief that a blanket shutdown of the Internet helps restrict misinformation, spreading of fake news,  incitement of violence, etc. that could take place. 

Image by Ben Dalton. Copyrighted under CC BY 2.0.

Due to the suspension of mobile and broadband internet services in Jammu and Kashmir on August 4, 2019 before the repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, a petition was filed at the Supreme Court by Anuradha Bhasin (a journalist at Kashmir Times). The petition challenged  the Government’s curb of media freedom in Jammu and Kashmir as a result of the blanket internet and communications shutdown. On 10th January 2020, the Supreme Court’s judgement in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, held that the internet has been deemed as a means to realise fundamental rights under Article 19 of the Constitution. The Court’s decision specifically applied to the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to carry on trade or businesses. 

The Court did not explore or answer the question of whether access to the internet by itself is a fundamental right since it was not a contention by the counsels. However, the Court did state that since fundamental rights could be affected by the measures applied by authorities (which in this case was an internet shutdown), a lawful measure which could restrict these fundamental rights must be proportionate to the goal. 

One reading of the Supreme Court’s decision in Anuradha Bhasin is that the case could act as an enabler which legitimises government-mandated internet shutdowns. Nevertheless, the Court does explicitly hold that the curtailment of fundamental rights affected by internet access restrictions must be proportionate. In pursuance of this restrictive measures need to be the least restrictive in nature. However, determining what constitutes the least restrictive measure is a subjective question and would vary on a case by case basis. There is no guarantee that internet shutdowns would not be the opted measure. . 

  1. Critiquing the Rationale of the Anuradha Bhasin Judgement

It is important to investigate why the Court was hesitant to not deem internet access as a fundamental right. One major reason could be due to the fact that access to the internet is not possible for all the citizens of India in the current situation in any case. At the time of writing this paper, approximately half of India’s population has access to and uses the internet. Where such a visible ‘Digital Divide’ exists, i.e. when half of the Indian population cannot access the Internet and the government has not yet been able to provide such universal access to the internet, it would not be feasible for the Court to hold that the access to internet is in fact a fundamental right. 

If the Court were to hold that access to the internet is a fundamental right in the current situation, there would be a question of what internet access means ? Is access to the internet simply access to an internet connection? Or does  it also include the means required in order to access the internet in the first place? 

If it is just the first, then deeming access to the internet as a fundamental right would be futile since in order to access an internet connection, electronic devices (e.g. laptops, smartphones, etc.) are required. At a purely fiscal level, it would be improbable for the State to fulfil such a Constitutional mandate. Moreover, access to the internet would be a fundamental right only to those who have the privilege of obtaining the means to access the internet. The burden on the State would be too high since the State would be expected to not just provide internet connection but also the electronics which would be required in order to access the same. In either case, it does not seem feasible for access to the internet to be deemed as a fundamental right due to the practical constraint of India’s immense digital divide.  


At a future point where it is feasible for more people to access the internet in India (especially in rural/remote areas), it may be appropriate to deem access to the internet as a fundamental right. However, at this juncture to argue that the access to internet is a fundamental right (knowing that it is primarily accessible to more privileged segments) would be an assertion anchored on privilege.  Therefore, as important as the internet is for speech and expression, education, technology, etc. the fact that it is not accessible to a lot of people is something for policymakers and wider stakeholders to consider. 

This is especially important to look at in the context of COVID-19. Lockdowns and movement restrictions have increased remote work and accelerated online education. In order to work or study online, people must have access to both devices and  the internet. 

In this context a UNICEF Report (August 2020)observed that only 24% of Indian households had internet connection to access education and in November 2020 an undergraduate student died as a result of suicide since she was unable to afford a laptop. This provides macro and micro evidence of the blatant digital divide in India. Hence, it is not feasible to deem the right to access the internet as a fundamental right.  

In any case, if we were to assume that the right to access the internet was a fundamental right as what was held on 19 September 2019 by the Kerala High Court in Faheema Shirin R.K v. State of Kerala, the issue of whether internet shutdowns are legal or not would still be contended. Article 19(2) provides certain conditions under which the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted. Similarly, Article 19(6) of the Constitution provides that  the right to carry on trade and business can be reasonably restricted in the interest of the general public. If access to the internet would be deemed as a fundamental right, it would be necessary to look at the scope of Articles 19(2) and 19(6) through a different lens. Nevertheless, such alteration would not yield a different application of the law. In essence, the Government’s restrictions on internet access would operate in the same way.

It is highly likely that Internet shutdowns would still be constitutional. However, there could be a change in the current stance to the legality of internet shutdowns. Situations wherein internet shutdowns would be legal may become narrower. There may even be a need for specific  legislation for clarity and for compliance with the constitutional obligations. 


Due to COVID-19, many people are unable to access education or work in the same way that was done before. Even courts are functioning online and with that the necessity to access the internet has never been stronger. The court in Anuradha Bhasin held that the internet was an enabler to rights under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g). However,  now with the added scope for the necessity to be able to use the internet as a medium of accessing education and as a medium to access justice (which has been recognised as a fundamental right under Article 21 and 14), lawmakers and Courts must evaluate whether the rising dependency on the access internet would in itself be a reason for internet access becomes crystallised as a fundamental right. 

*Views expressed in the blog are personal and should not be attributed to the institution.


  1. Access Now, in consultation with stakeholders from around the world, launched its #KeepItOn campaign against internet shutdowns and developed the first international consensus on the definition of an internet shutdown in RightsCon 2016, available at

[August 12-19] CCG’s Week in Review: Curated News in Information Law and Policy

This week PM Modi called for the creation of a Chief of Defence staff in his Independence Day Speech; Internet and Communications Shutdown continue in Jammu and Kashmir after a brief reprieve amid fears of violence; Rajasthan faces Internet shutdowns in parts of Jaipur following communal clash; China’s new digital currency is almost up for launch; Maharashtra adopts wider use of blockchain technology – presenting this week’s most important developments in law and tech.   

Internet Shutdown

  • [Aug 13] Jaipur: 24 people injured in communal clash, mobile internet suspended in some areas, Scroll report; Hindustan Times report.
  • [Aug 13] Internet services partially restored in Jammu & Kashmir: Report, Medianama report.
  • [Aug 17] Landline services partially restored in Valley, mobile internet back in 5 Jammu districts, Hindustan Times report.
  • [Aug 18] Mobile Internet services again snapped in Jammu region, The Times of India report.

Internal Security: Current Status of J&K

  • [Aug 18] Ex-defence officers and bureaucrats move SC against Centre’s decision on Article 370, The Economic Times report; The Quint report.
  • [Aug 18] The fear of losing land to outsiders grips Valley, The Tribune report.
  • [Aug 18] 4G internet services to be made operational only after assessing situation: Jammu Divisional Commissioner, ANI News report.
  • [Aug 18] Restrictions Reimposed in Srinagar After Protests, Clashes With Police, The Wire report; the Statesman report.
  • [Aug 18] About 4,000 people arrested in Kashmir since August 5: govt sources to AFP, The Hindu report.
  • [Aug 19] Schools Reopen In Kashmir But Few Children Show Up: 10 Points, NDTV report.
  • [Aug 19] Congress Leaders Deviate From Party Line on Article 370, Hail Centre’s Move in Kashmir, The Wire report.

Tech and National Security

  • [Aug 15] Independence Day 2019: Here are the highlights from PM Modi’s speech, Business Line report.
  • [Aug 15] Major push for military, infra in PM Modi’s I-Day speech: Key takeaways, Business Standard report.
  • [Aug 16] Explained: What is Chief of Defence Staff that PM Modi announced in I-Day speech, India Today report.
  • [Aug 17] Appointment of CDS will boost India’s national security and power projection capabilities, Economic Times report.


  • [Aug 16] Amend existing laws so we can obtain and use people’s Aadhaar numbers for voter verification, says ECI to Law ministry, Medinama report.
  • [Aug 18] EC seeks legal backing to collect voters’ Aadhaar data to check duplication, Business Standard report.
  • [Aug 19] ‘Voluntary Aadhaar eKYC for bank accounts, mobile, MFs soon’, Times of India report.
  • [Aug 19] SC to consider Facebook’s Aadhaar plea on August 20, Deccan Herald report.

Digital India

  • [Aug 16] India’s battle to catch China in payment apps; country to become more digital, Livemint report.
  • [Aug 17] Top executives of Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi to meet government on August 19, Financial Express report.
  • [Aug 19] Lithuania can be important technology partner for India: Venkaiah Naidu, MoneyControl report.
  • [Aug 19] India to help Bhutan in digital payments, space technology, Hindustan Times report.


  • [Aug 13] NIST seeks industry feedback as Internet of Things cybersecurity standards take shape, Federal News Network report.
  • [Aug 14] Cybersecurity Startup emerges from Stealth with $31 million Investment, report.
  • [Aug 15] Kaspersky announces new Transparency Centre in Malaysia, Livemint report; Digital News Asia report.
  • [Aug 19] Cybersecurity leader Vectra establishes operations in Asia-Pacific to address growing demand for network detection and response in the cloud, Yahoo Finance report.

Emerging Technology

  • [Aug 14] Huawei starts research on 6G internet, Cnet report.
  • [Aug 14] Google’s soccer-playing A.I. hopes to master the world’s most popular sport, Digital Trends report.
  • [Aug 19] Three UK rolls out 5G home internet access in London, Engadget report.
  • [Aug 19] Cyber Security: Are IoT deployments in India safe from hackers?, Financial Express report.


  • [Aug 12] Reliance AGM: Mukesh Ambani backs blockchain technology; says data is wealth, Business Today report.
  • [Aug 19] Maharashtra to use blockchain technology in agriculture marketing, vehicle registration, DNA report; Cointelegraph report.


  • [Aug 13] China says state Cryptocurrency set to rival Bitcoin is ‘Close’ to Launch, The Independent report.
  • [Aug 14] China’s Digital Currency Is Unlikely to Be a Cryptocurrency, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 14] IAMAI says RBI has no authority to ban cryptocurrencies, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 16] Chinese National Cryptocurrency Turns Out Not Being an Actual Crypto, Cointelegraph report.
  • [Aug 17] Cryptocurrency This Week: Supreme Court To Conclude Hearing Next Week, Bitcoin India Investigations And More, Inc42 report.
  • [Aug 17] Mastercard is assembling its own cryptocurrency team, New York Post report.
  • [Aug 18] Facebook’s Calibra cryptocurrency wallet already has competition, Cnet report.
  • [Aug 19] Silvergate Bank Plans to Offer Cryptocurrency-Collateralized Loans, Cointelegraph report.
  • [Aug 19] Binance planning to launch ‘Venus,’ similar to Facebook’s upcoming cryptocurrency Libra, report.


  • [Aug 17] US set to give Huawei another 90 days to buy from American firms, Khaleej Times report.
  • [Aug 18] Trump To Suddenly Throw Lifeline To Huawei, Report Says, Saving Huawei Mate 30 Pro, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 18] Huawei to Trump: “You don’t want us to fight Google.”, EsquireME report.
  • [Aug 19] Trump: ‘I don’t want to do business with Huawei’, AlJazeera report.

Artificial Intelligence

  • [Aug 13] AI fights banana disease, report.
  • [Aug 13] TCS’ AI platform Ignio tops $60m revenue mark, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 14] Zensar Technologies places its bets on artificial intelligence, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 14] Ola ‘acquihires’ artificial intelligence start-up, Financial Express report.
  • [Aug 14] Wipro launches edge artificial intelligence solutions powered by Intel, Dataquest report; Moneycontrol report.
  • [Aug 15] IT big 3 to offer artificial intelligence as a platform, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 15] Google Assistant tops 2019 digital assistance IQ test, but every AI posts gains, Venturebeat report.
  • [Aug 16] Google brings AI to studying with Socratic, ZDNet report.
  • [Aug 16] [Funding alert] AI startup raises $1.6M from YourNest Ventures, Venture Catalysts, YourStory report.
  • [Aug 16] [Funding alert] Retail AI startup SprintAI raises $500,000 from InMobi co-founder, others, YourStory report.
  • [Aug 18] Small towns in India are powering the global race for artificial intelligence, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 18] New consortium aims to make Bengaluru hub for industrial AI, Livemint report.


  • [Aug 16] Data Leviathan: China’s Burgeoning Surveillance State, Human Rights Watch report.
  • [Aug 16] Uganda spends US$126 million on surveillance system with facial recognition from Huawei, South China Morning Post report.
  • [Aug 16] Trump administration reportedly wants to extend NSA phone surveillance program, Cnet report.
  • [Aug 17] White House is pushing to reauthorize law that allows surveillance on Americans’ phone records, report.

Data Privacy and Protection

  • [Aug 15] How Data Privacy Laws Can Fight Fake News, report.
  • [Aug 16] What The Great Hack tells us about data privacy, Livemint report.
  • [Aug 17] Facebook’s Bizarre Response To Privacy Scandals? New Pop-Up Cafés, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 18] Why Blockchain Technology is Important for Data Privacy, report.


  • [Aug 15] Alibaba results beat estimates on cloud, e-commerce growth, Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 16] E-commerce sector looks to self-regulate, Flipkart, Amazon not on board, CNBCTV 18 report.
  • [Aug 18] Fintech firm Suvidhaa plans e-commerce foray, Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 19] Why social e-commerce is set to become the next big thing in China, TechWire Asia report.
  • [Aug 19] China e-commerce sites block sales of protest gear to Hong Kong, The Japan Times report.

Opinions and Analyses

  • [Aug 13] Editorial, The Guardian, The Guardian view on surveillance: Big Brother is not the only watcher now.
  • [Aug 13] Anand Venkatanarayanan, Medianama, Dr Kamakoti’s solution for WhatsApp traceability without breaking encryption is erroneous and not feasible.
  • [Aug 14] Gladys Kong, Forbes, Why Stricter Data Privacy Laws Would Benefit The Data Industry.
  • [Aug 15] Tuhina Joshi and Vijayant Singh, Yourstory, Independence Day: When will India be free of data privacy issues?
  • [Aug 15] Shrija Agrawal, Livemint, ‘Cashless’ and the politics of innovation.
  • [Aug 15] Jeffrey Ton, Forbes, The Skeptic’s Guide To Assessing Artificial Intelligence.
  • [Aug 15] Matt Ocko and Alan Cohen, TechCrunch, Artificial intelligence can contribute to a safer world.
  • [Aug 15] Jaclyn Jaeger, Compliance Week, Data privacy vs. national security: Moving the conversation forward.
  • [Aug 15] Jinoy Jose P, Business Line, The Cheatsheet: How Internet shutdowns hurt the economy.
  • [Aug 15] Editorial, Hindustan Times, India’s tryst with freedom.
  • [Aug 16] Editorial, The Hindu, Words and deeds: On Modi’s I-Day vision.
  • [Aug 16] Editorial. The Indian Express, Injustice system.
  • [Aug 17] Guillermo M. Luz, The Inquirer, Apec’s new data privacy rules.
  • [Aug 17] Pravin Sawhney, The Tribune, Where does CDS fit in?
  • [Aug 18] Editorial, Hindustan Times, Fashioning India’s nuclear posture.
  • [Aug 18] Enrique Dans, Forbes, Will China’s New Cryptocurrency Make Virtual Cash Respectable?
  • [Aug 18] Stephanie Hare, The Guardian, Facial recognition is now rampant. The implications for our freedom are chilling.
  • [Aug 19] Thomas Hemphill, NWI Times, GUEST COMMENTARY: Artificial Intelligence and the antitrust challenges.
  • [Aug 19] Ravi Shankar Prasad, The Indian Express, Valley’s new dawn: An era of development and inclusion beckons.
  • [Aug 19] Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, The Quint, Massacre of J&K Laws and Constitution but No Blood on the Streets.

[August 5-12] CCG’s Week in Review: Curated News in Information Law and Policy

This week, the President assented to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill passed by Parliament, diving the state into two Union Territories as a state-wide communications shutdown continues; Reliance Jio announced release of Jio Fibre and its IoT platform; the cryptocurrency bill likely to come up in the next session of Parliament; PMO expected to give their stance on data localisation soon – presenting this week’s most important developments in law and tech.   


  • [Aug 8] WhatsApp risk: Hackers can change your messages, claims Israeli cybersecurity firm, Business Today report.
  • [Aug 9] Cyberattack warning as dangerous issues found on popular office printers: report, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 9] Broadcom-Symantec deal troubles cybersecurity experts, Search Security report.
  • [Aug 10] India ranked highest in IoT cyberattacks last quarter: report, News 18 report.
  • [Aug 10] Full-on war for cybersecurity talent as threats from hackers worsen, The Business Times report.

Internet Shutdowns

  • [Aug 5] This is the 51st internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir in 2019, Quartz report.
  • [Aug 5] India is the world’s leader in internet shutdowns, Foreign Policy report.

Internal Security: Kashmir and Abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A

  • [Aug 5] Rajya Sabha passes Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, scraps Articles 370, 35A, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 5] Article 370: Disobedience by Police, bureaucracy factored in, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 6] J&K Reorganisation Bill passed in Lok Sabha, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 6] Kashmir in lockdown after autonomy scrapped, BBC News report.
  • [Aug 6] Article 370 debate: Who said what as Modi govt scraps J&K’s special status, divides it in 2 UTs, India Today report.
  • [Aug 6] 2,000 sat phones, drones, 35k troops: How PM Modi prepped for Article 370 endgame, The Hindustan Times report.
  • [Aug 6] With Kashmir move, India risks losing the upper hand of a responsible, nuclear-armed democracy, Quartz report.
  • [Aug 6] In Kashmir move, critics say, Modi is trying to make India a Hindu nation, The New York Times report.
  • [Aug 7] Legal work behind scrapping of Article 370 began before Lok Sabha polls, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 7] Article 370: Pakistan to Downgrade Diplomatic Ties with India, The Wire report.
  • [Aug 7] NSA Ajit Doval visits J&K, interacts with Kashmiris over lunch, Livemint report.
  • [Aug 7] Parliament revokes Article 370, J&K bifurcation sealed, The Hindustan Times report.
  • [Aug 8] Ladakh in lockdown as protests flare up against J&K bifurcation, Livemint report.
  • [Aug 8] Pak nervous about India’s steps in J&K, says MEA, The Hindu report.
  • [Aug 9] Article 370 fallout: Pakistan now decided to ban all cultural exchanges with India, Business Today report; Financial Express report.
  • [Aug 9] NSA Ajit Doval approves 600 phones for troops in Kashmir to connect with family, India Today report.
  • [Aug 9] Phone services, internet partially restored in Kashmir ahead of Eid, NDTV report.
  • [Aug 10] Protests or peace in Srinagar? Videos from the BBC and Prasar Bharti show conflicting footage, report.
  • [Aug 10] India asks Pakistan to see ‘new reality’, The Asian Age report.
  • [Aug 10] Kashmir updates; Pakistan orders suspension of bus services on 3 routes, India Today report.
  • [Aug 10] Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh to come into existence on Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary, News 18 report.
  • [Aug 10] After Imran warns on Art 370, sleepy terror camps came alive in PoK: report, Deccan Chronicle report.
  • [Aug 10] 1964: When parties wanted Article 370 abrogated, The Hindustan Times report.
  • [Aug 10] Pakistan ups the ante over Kashmir, The Hindu report.
  • [Aug 11] Why PM Modi acted now on Kashmir? India Today report.
  • [Aug 11] India eases restrictions in Kashmir for Eid, The Straits Times report.
  • [Aug 11] Petitions in SC on J&K move, The Hindu report; Times of India report.
  • [Aug 11] Article 370 removal will result in end of terrorism in Kashmir, asserts Amit Shah, Money Control report.
  • [Aug 11] NSA Ajit Doval to oversee Kashmir’s three vital days, India Today report.

Tech and Law Enforcement

  • [Aug 6] Pakistan users tweet #ModiKillingKashmiris, cybercrime officials monitor over 1.58 lakh tweets using the tag, The Hindu report.
  • [Aug 8] WhatsApp can trace message origin, says IIT-M professor, ET Tech report.

Tech and National Security

  • [Aug 5] Centre invites private sector to test military gear, Deccan Herald report.
  • [Aug 5] US Defence Secretary insists it wasn’t Trump that demanded $10bn JEDI Cloud review, Data Economy report.
  • [Aug 5] US Defence Secretary insists it wasn’t Trump that demanded $10bn JEDI Cloud review, Data Economy report.
  • [Aug 7] Defence Ministry to decide on buying two BrahMos missile coastal batteries to tackle enemy warships, ANI News report.
  • [Aug 8] Defence acquisition council approves acquisition of two BrahMos missile batteries for Indian navy, Times of India report; ANI News  report; The New Indian Express report; Outlook report; Financial Express report.
  • [Aug 9] Self-reliance in Defence Sector can be achieved through start-ups: Rajnath Singh, ANI News report.
  • [Aug 10] Rajnath Singh promises private companies to go through ideas on easing norms, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 10] India and US unlikely to sign pact for mutual access to geospatial maps, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 10] India exporting defence equipment to friendly countries: Defence ministry official, The Economic Times report.

Data Protection Bill

  • [Aug 6] India’s Personal data Protetction Bill: What we know so far, Money Control report.
  • [Aug 7] Tech firms have no data on proposed data protection bill, ET Tech report.
  • [Aug 7] New bill lacks teeth to ensure data protection of Indians: Experts, Outlook report.
  • [Aug 12] Delhi Police recommends relaxing of restrictions on investigative agencies in teh data protection Bill, Medianama report.

Data Protection and Privacy

  • [Aug 5] UK watchdog eyeing PM Boris Johnson’s Facebook ads data grab, Tech Crunch report.
  • [Aug 6] Congress accuses Telangana Govt of provacy breach, MoS for Home Affairs to look into the matter: Report, ANI report; Medianama report.  
  • [Aug 6] Twitter says it may have used private data for ads without users’ permission, The Hill report.
  • [Aug 6] Facebook, Google Twitter aren’t prepared for presidential deepfakes, MIT Technology review report.
  • [Aug 9] The Irish Data Protection Commission is looking into how millions of Instagram users’ personal data was harvested by one of the company’s partners, Business Insider report.
  • [Aug 9] Amazon’s lead EU data regulator is asking questions about Alexa privacy, Tech Crunch report.


  • [Aug 5] Govt proposes grievance officers, tighter rules for Shein, Clun Factory and ecommerce players, Inc42 report
  • [Aug 10] New guidelines on e-commerce and data protection are largely positive, The Hindu Business Line report.

Data Localisation

  • [Aug 8] PMO’s stand on data localisation soon, ET Tech report.

Digital India

  • [Aug 5] Chennai is quickly turning into the new hotbed for SaaS and deep-tech startups, ET Tech report.
  • [Aug 6] Summary: National Digital Health Blueprint proposes new body for digital health mission, health data exchanges and registries, Medianama report.
  • [Aug 8] Finance Ministry clarification helps startups breathe easy on angel tax, Tech Circle report.
  • [Aug 8] Wipro signs 5 year digital transformation deal with Montreal Airport Authority, Tech Circle report.


  • [Aug 6] Hyderabad: Rescued kids have same DoB: Traffickers used Aadhaar cards as age proof to escape police’s attention, Deccan Chronicle report.
  • [Aug 6] RBI might extend the deadline for full KYC to March 2020: NASSCOM, Inc42 report.
  • [Aug 7] Aadhaar is now mandatory for students, but is it legal? The New Indian Express report.
  • [Aug 7] Students stare at scholarship setback, Deccan Herald report.
  • [Aug 8] Aadhaar for cows and buffaloes: India is developing world’s largest livestock database, Money Control report; The New Indian Express report.
  • [Aug 10] TN Govt makes Aadhaar enrolment compulsory for school students, sparks row, The News Minute report.
  • [Aug 11] Manipur: Six Rohingya migrants arrested for entering India with fake Aadhaar IDs, The Indian Express report.
  • [Aug 12] Aadhaar Pay regains tempo, usage hits 200 million, ET Rise report.
  • [Aug 12] Aadhaar enabled payment system witnesses 11% rise in transaction value, Entrackr report.

Digital Payments

  • [Aug 6] Mobile wallet firms look to RBI for eKYC options, ET Tech report.
  • [Aug 8] RBI’s Central Registry to track frauds in payment systems, ET Tech report.
  • [Aug 8] RBI brings in major change in Bharat Bill Payment System regime, ET Tech report


  • [Aug 4] New Iranian Law: Govt will not recognize crypto-related trade, Coin Telegraph report.
  • [Aug 5] Mastercard is building a team to develop crypto, wallet projects, Coin Desk report; Crypto NewsZ report.
  • [Aug 5] Cryptocurrency in China: Over the counter, under the table, Coin Deask report.
  • [Aug 5] Bitcoin price soars as China softens stance on crypto, devalues Yuanh, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 5] Crypto is replacing fiat currency in troubled countries, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 6] Privacy Commissioners from around the world raise concerns over Facebook’s Libra privacy risks, Medianama report.
  • [Aug 7] ECB says it’s ramping up crypto surveillance to include off-chain data, Coin Telegraph report.
  • [Aug 7] South Korean Watchdog plans direct supervision of crypto exchanges, Coin Desk report.
  • [Aug 8] Serious security warning issued for world’s biggest bitcoin and crypto exchange, Binance, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 8] Indian Supreme Court heard crypto case in depth, Bitcoin News report.
  • [Aug 8] State-sponsored Chinese hacking group targeting crypto firms: report, Coin Desk report.
  • [Aug 9] India could lose billions in revenue from banning crypto, Coingeek report.
  • [Aug 10] Global system to combat crypto-driven money laundering in development, New BTC report.
  • [Aug 10] India to introduce Crypto Bill in next Parliament session – a look at community responses, Bitcoin News report.


  • [Aug 6] BSNL reviews outsourced functions to save cost; faces rs. 800 crore revenue-expense gap, ET Telecom report.
  • [Aug 6] TRAI directs telcos to submit monthly reports on complaints under new pesky call rules, ET Telecom report.
  • [Aug 9] 5G Rollout: Govt decision on Huawei role soon, Financial Express report.
  • [Aug 12] Reliance Jio launching broadband service on Sep 5, Entrackr report.

More on Huawei

  • [Aug 5] Huawei’s latest earnings mask its trouble outside China, Wired report.
  • [Aug 6] China warns India of ‘reverse sanctions’ if Huawei is blocked, ET Telecom report; Livemint report; Business Today report.
  • [Aug 6] China jobs impacted after Huawei row: Manufacturer, Al Jazeera report.
  • [Aug 6] Your company’s surprising supply chain exposure on Huawei, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 7] China ‘blackmailing’ India into using Huawei infra: US Congressman, ET Telecom report.
  • [Aug 7] Trump administration to ban agencies from directly purchasing equipment or services from Huawei, ZTE and Hickvision, CNBC report.; The Economic Times report
  • [Aug 7] Huawei pushes ahead with US $ 1.4 bn R&D Centre in Shanghai in spite of US trade restrictions, South China Morning Post report.
  • [Aug 9] Huawei launches own operating system to rival Android, The Economic Times report; Engadget report.

Big Tech

  • [Aug 9] More women going up the ladder in global tech firms, ET Tech report.

Internet of Things (IoT)

  • [Aug 12] Jio’s IoT platform to be commercially available by January 2020: Mukesh Ambani, Money Control report; News 18 report.

Opinions and Analyses

  • [Aug 5] Gautam Bhatia, Indian Constitutional Law and philosophy Blog, The Article 370 Amendments: Key Legal Issues.
  • [Aug 5] Marty Puranik, Forbes, Can AI be used to bolster cybersecurity?
  • [Aug 5] Matthew Prince, Cloudflare, Terminating Service for 8chan. 
  • [Aug 5] Ron Shevlin, Forbes, Why does Walmart want a cryptocurrency?
  • [Aug 6] Faizan Mustafa, The Indian Express, Explained: What are Articles 370 and 35A?
  • [Aug 6] David Lyon and Clin Bennett, The Conversation, Data driven elections and the key questions about voter surveillance.
  • [Aug 6] Pratap Bhanu Mehta, The Indian Express, The story of Indian democracy is written in blood and betrayal.
  • [Aug 6] Syed Ata Hasnain, Times of India, The end of autonomy: Pakistan’s negative ambitions spurred Centre’s decision on Kammu and Kashmir.
  • [Aug 6] Atul Pant, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, C2D2: An agile defence acquisition model.
  • [Aug 6] Amitabh Mattoo, The Hindu, Piecing together Kashmir’s audacious roadmap.
  • [Aug 6] Monika Halan, Livemint, Data is already currency, now you may be able to use own data.
  • [Aug 6] Paul Rosenzweig, Lawfare, Preliminary Observations on the Utility of Measuring Cybersecurity.
  • [Aug 6] Daisuke Wakabatashi, The New York Times, Legal Shield for Websites Rattles under Onslaught of Hate Speech.
  • [Aug 7] Jitendra Singh, Entrackr, Why breaking WhatsApp encryption could have chilling effect on its users.
  • [Aug 7] Yau Tsz Yan, The Diplomat, Smart Cities or Surveillance? Huawei in Central Asia.
  • [Aug 7] Luv Puri, The Hindu, The new facts on the ground for Kashmir.
  • [Aug 8] Wajahat Habibullah, The Hindustan Times, Revocation of Article 370 could trigger a sense of betrayal in Kashmir.
  • [Aug 8] Tarun Shridhar, Indian Express, Now, also an Aadhaar card for cattle and buffaloes.
  • [Aug 8] Gregory Barber, Wired, AI Needs Your Data – And you should get paid for it.
  • [Aug 8] Bibyesh Anand, Foreign Policy, Kashmir is a dress rehearsal for Hindu nationalist fantasies.
  • [Aug 8] Katie Mettler, The Washington Post, Why free speech makes it difficult to prosecute white supremacy in America.
  • [Aug 9] Avantika Mehta, The Leaflet, Facebook bats for WhatsApp privacy protection.
  • [Aug 9] Vikram Mahajan, The Economic Times, India-US Defence Deals: Why CAATSA should be avoided.
  • [Aug 9] Guest Author, Medianama, AI in Military Operations: Where does India stand?
  • [Aug 10] Suhrith Parthasarthy, The Hindu, Incisive interventions that blunt the RTI’s edge.
  • [Aug 11] Navnita Chadha Behera, Deccan Herald, Article 370 meant to extend Indian sovereignty over J&K.
  • [Aug 11] Minhaz Merchant, Business World, China after Huawei and Hong Kong.
  • [Aug 12] Rakesh K Singh, The Pioneer, Pakistan steps up espionage efforts for Pulwama 2.0.
  • [Aug 12] Sandipan Deb, Livemint, The revocation of Article 370 ends a foul majoritarianism.
  • [Aug 12] Rayan Naqash, Firstpost, Kashmir after Artilce 370: State’s existential crisis worsens as it grapples with idea that Centre has dissolved mainstream politics.

[July 29- August 5] CCG’s Week in Review: Curated News in Information Law and Policy

Internet services suspended in Kashmir; The unrest over the passage of the RTI bill continues as the president gives assent to the RTI Amendment bill. Rajya Sabha passes Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment bill on Friday after days of deadlock — presenting this week’s most important developments in law and tech.

Data Protection Bill

  • [July 30] India to seek ‘adequacy’ status with GDPR after Data Protection Bill is passed, The Economic Times report; Medianama report.
  • [Aug 1] India should adopt strong data protection laws to improve data flows with EU, says envoy, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 2] Data Protection Law: Mahua Moitra alleges conflict of interests against lawyers working with govt, India Today report; The Wire report.
  • [Aug 5] Critical’ data list will be revised with time; move may trouble firms, ET Tech report.

Right to Information

  • Aug 1] Activists urge President to not give assent to RTI Bill; detained by police, Deccan Herald report; The New Indian Express report; Outlook report.
  • [Aug 2] ‘Use RTI to save RTI’ movement begins across the country as president Kovind gives assent to the RTI Amendment Bill, Money Life report.

National Security Law

  • [Aug 2] UAPA Bill passed in Rajya Sabha with 147 votes in favour, 42 against, India Today report; India Today report; The Hindu report; The Tribune analysis.
  • [Aug 2] CDS or NSA: A bone of contention in India’s strategic affairs, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 3] Trader arrested under National Security Act for alleged milk adulteration, NDTV report.

National Security and Free Speech

  • [Aug 2] Facebook takes down accounts and pages from UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, Medianama report.
  • [Aug 3] NIA for media gag in ‘sensitive’ Malegaon trial, The Times of India report.
  • [Aug 5] Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba put under house arrest, internet services snapped as Kashmir remains tense, News 18 report.
  • [Aug 5] Kashmir on edge: Security beefed up, restrictions imposed, Internet services suspended, many leaders ‘detained or arrested’. The Economic Times report

Digital India

  • [July 31] Amend law to regulate ride-hailing firms like Ola and Uber: SC tells Govt, Entrackr report.
  • [July 31] Bring a law to regulate Ola, Uber: SC asks Govy, ET Tech report
  • [July 31] CCI dismisses abuse of dominance complaint against OYO, ET Tech report; Entrackr report.
  • [July 31] Lok Sabha to become paperless from next session: Speaker, Times of India report.
  • [Aug 1] Delhi HC hears out petition demanding ban on online websites; ‘What makes you special?’ Chief Justice asks AIGF, Medianama report.
  • [Aug 1] EC announces revision of electoral rolls,. The Tribune report.
  • [Aug 5] Government to formulate broad set of rules for Ola, Uber soon, Entrackr report.

Data Privacy and Breaches

  • [July 29] EU court rules companies liable for data protection with Facebook ‘Like’ button, Telecom paper report.
  • [July 29] European Commission takes Spain, Greece to court for failing to enact data protection rules for police, Medianama report.
  • [July 31] Analysts flag data privacy concerns over FaceApp, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 31] Data breach discovered in financial services platforms Chqbook, Credit Fair by vpnMentor (full report), ET Tech report.
  • [July 31] Truecaller fixes bug after facing flak from users for automatic UPI signup, Entrackr report.
  • [Aug 1] Google halts Assistant speech data transcription in EU, The Economic Times report; POLITICO report.
  • [Aug 3] Apple contractors will stop listening to your Siri recordings – for now, Wired report.


  • [Aug 3] PIB Press release error made Aadhaar mandatory for driving license, The Quint report.
  • [Aug 4] Aadhaar updation centre comes up at BSNL office, The Tribune report.
  • [Aug 5] National Population register to include Aadhaar details, The Economic Times report; Entrackr report.


  • [Aug 1] Amazon may shop for stake in Reliance retail, ET Tech report; Entracke report.
  • [Aug 2] Biz in China not easy: IT cos tell Piyush Goyal, ET Tech report.

Digital Payments/FinTech

  • [Aug 1] UPI processed 822 million transactions in July, ET Tech report; Entrackr report; Medianama report.
  • [Aug 1] 50% dip in India’s fintech investments in H1 2019, ET Tech report.
  • [Aug 3] Fin-tech players enabling payment through Aadhaar card, Deccan Chronicle report.


  • [July 29] Facebook and Libra are looming large over tomorrow’s crypto hearing in Congress, Forbes report.
  • [July 30] You could be fined or jailed for holding crypto, Livemint report.
  • [July 31] NASSCOM says banning cryptocurrencies ‘not constructive’ regulate them instead, Medianama report, The Economic Times report; Livemint report; The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [July 31] UK Finance watchdog issues guidance on regulation for bitcoin and crypto assets, Coin Desk report.
  • [July 31] Indian Finance Minister addresses crypto proposal – industry responds, news report.
  • [July 31] Watch out cryptocurrency owners, the IRS is on the hunt, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 1] Bitcoin has ‘no intrinsic value’, as UK ‘moves towards’ crypto ban, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 1] ‘Crypto rogue’ nations want to use blockchains to undermine the US dollar, MIT Tech review report.
  • [Aug 2] Indian government updates parliament on crypto plans, Bitcoin News report.
  • [Aug 2] South Korea declares partial regulation-free zone for crypto companies, Coin Desk report.
  • [Aug 3] Apple card can’t be used to buy crypto, Tech Crunch report.


  • July 30] Over half of enterprise firms don’t have a clue if their cybersecurity solutions are working, ZD Net report.
  • [July 31] Emerson sets up cybersecurity lab in Pune, ET Rise report.
  • [Aug 1] CISCO whistleblower gets first False Claims payout over cybersecurity, Reuters report.
  • [Aug 1] Financial services cybersecurity still porous, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 2] How to jumpstart your career in cybersecurity, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 2] US GAO blasts cybersecurity efforts of Federal agencies, watchdog points to numerous risk management shortcomings, Bank Info Security report.
  • [Aug 3] Cyber Workshop held for Shanghai Cooperation Organization Delegation, The Hans India report.


  • [July 30] 5G: Telecoms lobby demands access to high-band spectrum for 5G, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 30] BSNL, MTNL merger may take two years, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 30] DoT starts issuing telecom equipment test certificates, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 30] Jio to raise $1 bn via offshore loans to buy telecom gear, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 31] Swadeshi Jagran Manch objects to DoT team to attend 5G conference, writes to PMO, India Today report; Business Today report; The New India Express report.
  • [July 31] TRAI moots KYC norms for cable TV, DTH connections, The Hindu report.
  • [July 31] US warns of implications of adopting 5G tech from ‘totalitarian states’, The Economic times report.
  • [Aug 1] Anshu Prakash takes over as new telecom secretary today, ET Telecom report.
  • [Aug 1] ET 5G Congress; Huawei India CEO says high spectrum costs a big challenge, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 2] Govt calls in industry to make robust investments in 5 G tech, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 5] Security concerns should be addressed before adopting 5G: Airtel, The Economic Times report.

More on Huawei

  • [July 29] Huawei row may escalate, hit Modi-Xi Jinping meet, The Asian Age report
  • [July 29] Huawei’s first 5G phone goes on sale in China next month, Tech Crunch report.
  • [July 30] Huawei’s sales jump despite trump’s blacklisting, The New York Times report.
  • [Aug 2] The US-China trade war is back on, that’s bad news for Huawei, CNN Business report.
  • [Aug 3] Huawei wins bid to build 4G network in Kiev subway, Xinhua News report.

Tech and Law Enforcement

  • [July 29] RS Prasad: Traceability will be WhatsApp’s job, WhatsApp demurs, Medianama report.
  • [July 30] Call for backdoor access to WhatsApp as Five Eyes nations meet, The Guardian report.
  • [July 31] Facebook fact-checker says company must share more data to fight misinformation, ET Telecom report.
  • [Aug 1] FBI seeks tools to help track criminals and terrorists via social media, Defense One report.
  • [Aug 3] The Pentagon is testing powerful mass-surveillance balloons above six US states., Quartz report
  • [Aug 5] Hyderabad: Rs. 149 crore lost to fraud, netizens still unwary, Deccan Chronicle report.

Tech and National Security

  • [July 29] American tech shudders as China cyber rules are expected to get tougher, The Wall Street Journal report.
  • [July 29] India rethinking buying US $6 bn drone after Iran’s downing of Global Hawk, report.
  • [Aug 2] Balakot lessons: India needs to upgrade its fighter fleet, gain tech advantage, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 2] India, US to ink two key defence pacts this week, The Hindustan Times report.; Deccan Herald report.
  • [Aug 4] Rs. 25,000 crore tenders cancelled or modified to promote ‘Make in India’, The Hindu Business Line report.

Big Tech

  • [July 31] Govt considering directly taxing non-resident Big Tech companies, The Economic Times report; Medianama report.
  • [July 31] Google researchers find 6 iOS security flaws, ET Telecom report.
  • [Aug 1] FTC Antitrust probe of Facebook scrutinizes its acquisitions, The Wall Street Journal report.

Emerging Tech/AI

  • [July 30] StradVision unveils autonomous vehicles camera tech, ET Auto report.
  • [July 31] AI could reshape work environment by 2030, says Dell study, Tech Circle report
  • [July 31] Alphabet’s AI might be able to predict kidney disease, Wired report.
  • [July 31] Another US city moves to ban face recognition, citing threats to free speech and civil rights. Gizmodo report.
  • [July 31] This autonomous bicycle shows China’s rising expertise in AI chips, Technology Review report.
  • [Aug 1] AI bar system makes sure patrons are served in the right order, Engadget report.
  • [Aug 1] How this startup is using AI, IoT to deliver smart solutions for power shortages, Tech Circle report.
  • [Aug 1] The ripple effects of Artificial Intelligence, Money Control report.
  • [Aug 1] How AI can support cybersecurity leader, Tech Radar report.

Opinions and Analysis

  • [July 26] Patrick Tucker, Defense One, When Trump threatens Google, here’s what he doesn’t get.
  • [July 28] Livemint Opinion, A China that hides its strength no longer.
  • [July 29] Aarthi Shridhar, Money Control, The privacy of environmental crimes.
  • [July 29] Air Marshal SBP Sinha, Bharat Shakti, Prioritising threat-based expenditure.
  • [July 29] PK Balachandran,, China’s White Paper on Defense is soft on India and hard on Taiwan.
  • [July 29] Sayantan Bera, Livemint, Five ways to save the spirit of RTI.
  • [July 30] Alexian Chiavegato, Forbes, One-year reflection on the GDPR: Who really benefits from data protection?
  • [July 30] Amba Kak, Times of India (blog), Privacy law needs public debate: Data protection law must guard against internal as well as external threats to citizen privacy.
  • [July 30] Brian G Chow, Defense One, Two ways to ward off killer spacecraft: One is diplomatic, the other, technological.
  • [July 30] Fredrik Bussler, Forbes, The future of crypto: security tokens as a ‘boring’ reality.
  • [July 30] TK Arun, The Economic Times, Don’t rob the states to fund defence, the Centre should modernise the armed forces and defence production instead.
  • [July 30] Vikram Kumar, The Economic Times, Three reasons why IoT is the biggest innovation in the tracking industry.
  • [July 31] Amna Mirza, The New Indian Express, Changing gears for industry 4.0.
  • [July 31] Anmdrew Burt, Harvard Business Review, New laws on data privacy and security are coming. Is your company ready?
  • [July 31] Harshajit Sarmah, Analytics India Magazine. 6 challenges using open source cybersecurity tools.
  • [July 31] Kalvakuntla Kavitha, The Print, India must rethink strategies on national security if it wants to join ranks with US, China.
  • [July 31] Klint Finley, Wired, When Open Source software comes with a few catches.
  • [July 31] Reetika Khera, The Hindu, The makings of a digital kleptocracy.
  • [Aug 1] Leo Kelion, BBC News, AI system ‘should be recognized as an inventor’.
  • [Aug 1] Varun Kannan, The Wire, Aadhaar Amendment Bill: Is expanding the use of UID legally sustainable?
  • [Aug 2] Saad Masood, The Daily Times (Pakistan), Doctrine, policy and strategy: Is freedom of expression compatible with national security?
  • [Aug 3] John Desimone, The Hill, A cyber solution to secure our networks and close the workforce gap.
  • [Aug 3] Sputnik International, The Pentagon does not want to give up Chinese technology.
  • [Aug 4] Akhil Kumar, The Wire, Chargesheet against JNU teachers will have a ‘chilling effect on free speech’.

[July 1-July 8] CCG’s Week in Review: Curated News in Information Law and Policy

The Union Budget for 2019-2020 brought with it a boost for using Aadhaar to file I-T returns amid escalating privacy concerns, but disappointed those hoping for larger allocations to modernisation of the armed forces. As the uncertainty over Huawei’s inclusion in 5G trials continues — presenting this week’s most important developments in law and tech.


  • [July 4] Aadhaar bill seeking its use as ID to open bank account passes in Lok Sabha, India today report.
  • [July 4] UIDAI sets up first Aadhaar centres in Delhi and Vijayawada, to set up 114 more centres in 2019, Medianama report.
  • [July 5] Aadhaar ordinance: SC asks Centre, UIDAI to respond to writ petition, The Hindu report; The Economic Times report; Medianma report.
  • [July 6] Budget eases criteria of obtaining Aadhaar for NRIs with Indian passport, Business Standard report.
  • [July 6] Budget 2019 proposes to make PAN, Aadhaar interchangeable; soon you can file ITR using either of these, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 6] J&K Government approves Aadhaar linked payment mode for disbursal of pension, Business Standard report.
  • [July 7] Economic survey has based Aadhaar impact on MGNREGS on false assumptions, say researchers, The Hindu report.
  • [July 8] I-T to allot PAN to those filing returns only with Aadhaar, Live Mint report.

Internet Shutdowns

  • [July 2] India saw 11 internet shutdowns in June, 59 so far in 2019, Medianama report.
  • [July 4] Internet services in Jaipur set to resume today; parts of the city had been offline after rape of minor, Medianama report.
  • [July 4] Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp back after 8-hour outage that left users unable to upload photos, videos, Medianama report.
  • [July 5] Following communal violence, internet remains closed in Agra, India today report.

Free Speech

  • [July 3] Centre has no plans to scrap sedition law, Minister tells Rajya Sabha; The Hindu report.
  • [July 5] MDMK Chief vaiko convicted in sedition case, sentenced to one year imprisonment, The Hindu Business Line report.

Data Protection

  • [July 1] Data Protection Bill: MHA wants insulation for security agencies, The Tribune report.
  • [July 2] TikTok illegally collecting data received by China, claims Shashi Tharoor, News18 report.
  • [July 2] Tik Tok under investigation in the UK over children’s data use, The Guardian report.
  • [July 2] China’s new data protection scheme, The Diplomat report.
  • [July 3] Comprehensive legislation on data privacy under formulation: Ravi Shankar Prasad; The Economic Times report.
  • [July 4] Won’t allow abuse of Indian data by foreign powers or companies, says RS Prasad in Rajya Sabha , Medianama report.
  • [July 5] Govt needs to leverage data as public good to boost welfare of poor, Live Mint report.
  • [July 6] Economic Survey pushes for interlinking and selling citizens’ data for private purposes: Rethink Aadhaar, Money Life report.

Digital India

  • [July 4] Qualcomm India extends design challenge to MeitY supported startups, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 8] No incentive left for banks to push digital pay, fears fintech, ET Tech report.


  • [June 30] ‘Govt Screwed Us’ Crypto Startup Coin Recoil Founder Writes An Open Letter To PM. Inc42 report.
  • [July 2] Remaining crypto exchanges in India bet on global markets, ET Tech report.
  • [July 3] Bitcoin’s energy consumption ‘equals that of Switzerland’, BBC report.
  • [July 5] Indian authorities arrest 4 individuals accused of crypto ponzi scheme, Coin Telegraph report.
  • [July 5] US lawmakers tell Facebook to halt Libra as it risks undermining dollar and upending global financial system, Medianama report.
  • [July 7] New ECB boss Christine Lagarde made a serious Bitcoin warning, Forbes report.


  • [July 3] Samsung talks about its 5G solution, readiness to work with telecom operators in India, India Today report
  • [July 2] Samsung to ramp up Internet of Things business in India after 5G roll out, Times Now News reports

More on Huawei

  • [July 3] Despite Trump’s promised reprieve, Commerce Department tells staff to continue treating Huawei as blacklisted, Tech Crunch report.
  • [July 3] Indian companies supplying (US origin equipment)  to Huawei may face US sanctions: Govt, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 4] Donald trump eases off Huawei as forms discover holes in his export ban, The Economist’s analysis.
  • [July 4] India to decide on Huawei participation in 5G trial based on security and economic interests, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 5] Huawei disputes US cyber firm’s findings of flaws in gear, The Wall Street Journal report.
  • [July 6] Huawei employees linked to China’s military and intelligence, reports claim, Forbes report.
  • [July 6] Huawei is helping all the UK’s top carriers build their 5G networks, Engadget report.


  • [July 2] Air travel needs cybersecurity, now tighter than ever, Financial Express report.
  • [July 3] New Zealand updates its cybersecurity strategy, ZDNet report.
  • [July 3] Tech Mahindra, SSH to deploy cutting edge cybersecurity solutions to secure access control for enterprises, Dataquest India report.
  • [July 3] 25 Central, State govt websites hacked till May this year: Ravi Shankar Prasad; The economic Times report.
  • [July 5] Getting up to speed with AI and Cybersecurity, Tech radar explainer.
  • [July 5] The Biggest Cybersecurity Crises of 2019 so far, The Wired report.
  • [July 6] New ransomware named Sodin exploits Windows flaw identified by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, The Indian Wire report.


  • [July 3] Suspected Iranian Cyber Attacks Show No sign of slowing, Defense One report.
  • [July 4] Report: Pentagon should assume US satellites are already hacked, Defense One report.

Surveillance/ Tech and Law Enforcement

  • [July 1] NSAB comes up with traceability to help Whatsapp, Economic Times report
  • [July 2] China snares tourists’ phones in surveillance dragnet by adding secret app, The New York Times report; Wired report; The Guardian report.

Tech and Military

  • [July 1] Indian Air Force orders Russian-made anti-tank missiles for USD 29 million, Jane’s Defence Weekly report.
  • [July 1] Modi govt spent Rs. 2.37 lakh crore on modernisation of armed forces in 4 years, Business Today report.
  • [July 2] India’s defence budget has nearly doubled in 5 years but the money is not enough to upgrade the weapons. Business Insider report.
  • [July 4] Funds shrinking, Army wants budget 2019 to make special allowance for GST, customs duties, The Print report.
  • [July 5] Budget 2019: Experts feel not much to change for armed forces, The New Indian Express report.
  • [July 5] 0.01% – The increase in defence allocation from interim budget as modernisation put on hold, News18 report.
  • [July 5] Budget 2019: Defence gets duty exemption on imports, no big allocation, say experts, Financial Express report; The Hindu report.
  • [July 5] India outlines progress in ‘Strategic Partner’ projects, Jane’s Defense Weekly report.
  • [July 5] Defence Ministry approves Army Headquarters restructuring plans: Gen Bipin Rawat, Business Standard report.
  • [July 6] Army, Nation e-Governance Division ink pact for developing revamped app, Money Control report.
  • [July 6] MBDA, French Army team develop AI based automatic target recognition by imaging system, Defense World report.
  • [July 7] Indian Army to buy American howitzer ammo for long-range accurate strikes, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 8] DRDO carries out three successful Nag tests in one day in Pokhran, The Economic Times report.

Opinions and Analyses

  • [July 1] Abhijit Kumar Dutta, Money Control, 5G test run: Is barring Huawei a good idea? Probably not.
  • [July 1] Maahi Mayuri, Mondaq News Alerts, India: Data Localisation: What’s in it for us?
  • [July 2] Allie Funk, Wired, I opted out of facial recognition at the airport – it wasn’t easy.
  • [July 3] Times of India editorial, Don’t hug Huawei: Beware of allowing Chinese firms entry into India’s 5G market.
  • [July 3] Amol Agarwal, Money Control, Facebook’s Libra currency – will it rewrite the crypto playbook?
  • [July 3] Harsh V Pant and Kartik Bommakanti, Observer Research Foundation, India’s national security challenge.
  • [July 3] Manas Chakravarty, Money Control, Why the US is targeting Huawei.
  • [July 3] India’s response to China’s cyber attacks, The Diplomat’s analysis.
  • [July 3] Rohan Venkatramakrishnan,, Where is the personal data protection that Indian were promised? 
  • [July 3] Business Standard editorial comment, The crypto challenge. [paywall]
  • [July 5] Key tech related takeaways from Union Budget 2019-20, Medianama summary.
  • [July 5] Afiya Qureshi, Mashable India, Indian Government plans to monitor the internet through a centralized system: should we worry?
  • [July 5] Pravin Sawhney, The Wire, Defence Budget: Skewed ratio of allocations hurts India’s war preparedness.
  • [July 5] Debajit Sarkar, Financial Express, Budget 2019: There is a need to boost defense expenditure.
  • [July 6] Sounak Mukherjee, Money Control, TMC MP Mahua Moitra’s privacy concerns on Aadhaar stand tall against FM Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget 2019 proposals,
  • [July 6] Ivan Mehta, The Next Web, India claims its Aadhaar push is for the ‘good’ of the people despite serious privacy concerns.
  • [July 6] Ilangovan Rajasekaran, Frontline, Conviction in sedition case will not affect Vaiko’s election to Rajya Sabha.
  • [July 7] Wired Opinion, How to protect our kids’ data and privacy.
  • [July 7] Sara Harrison, Wired, Twitter’s disinformation dumps are helpful – to a point.
  • [July 7] Lt. Gen. KJ Singh, Times of India (blog), Union Budget tells armed forces to cut the coat as per cloth.

The Anatomy of Internet Shutdowns – III (Post Script: Gujarat High Court Verdict)

Written by Nakul Nayak

Earlier in this blog I had written at length about the legal backdrop in which any mobile Internet shutdown may be grounded and the constitutional questions surrounding Gujarat’s repeat application of this strategy as a public disorder shield in the Patidar reservation agitation. Three days back, the Gujarat High Court, in an Order to a public interest litigation, upheld the constitutional validity of the Internet ban. In this post, I go on to critically analyse the Order of the Court.

Before moving on to substance, an important question of accountability must be highlighted. I had lamented in my initial two posts (here and here) as well about how the issuance of notifications of the Internet shutdowns have been shrouded in secrecy, nearly impossible to access. This ostensibly played itself out in Court when the Government Pleader, in response to an argument, submitted that “the notification for blocking of internet facility on mobile phones from 25th August 2015 onwards was without there being any notification, is not correct. She submitted that the notification was already issued …”[sic] It is quite possible that the Petitioner, as I, was unable to find the impugned notification. However, a check of all government websites during the shutdown did not display any such notification to my best knowledge. It is hoped that as a matter of course the Government shall publish all such notifications in the public domain at the earliest instance.

On substantive law, the Court issued three major holdings. Of relevance to us here are two issues. First, the Court adjudicated on what would be the correct law that governed the Internet shutdown in Gujarat. Petitioners argued that it would be sec. 69A of the IT Act (blocking powers) as opposed to sec. 144 of the CrPC (preservation of public order). As I noted in my first post, the application of sec. 69A to state bans on internet communication seems unlikely since sec. 69A requires Central Government direction. We find in paragraph 15 of the Order that the impugned notification suspending all mobile data access was issued by the Commissioner of Police, City of Ahmedabad (and not any Central Government authority). Without taking note of this nuance, the Court went on to analyse sec. 144 of the CrPC and sec. 69A of the IT Act. Eventually, the Court concluded that “the area of operation of Section 69A is not the same as that of Section 144 of the Code.” The Court reasoned that

Section 69A may in a given case also be exercised for blocking certain websites, whereas under Section 144 of the Code, directions may be issued to certain persons who may be the source for extending the facility of internet access.

This sentence is important because it expressly states that blocking powers under sec. 69A is applicable only to access to specified websites and not to access to the web itself. Does this, by extension, also mean that Internet shutdowns may only be exercised through sec. 144 orders? This remains to be seen. With no reference to either the Indian Telegraph Act or the Unified Access License in the Order, it seems too early to conclude anything yet.

The other important issue before the Court was overbreadth; that whether the state ban on mobile Internet was unreasonably excessive. Before proceeding to the ruling, it is prudent to recount that in Shreya Singhal, Nariman J. held that “restrictions on the freedom of speech must be couched in the narrowest possible terms.” This is not limited to the statute-book application of the law but also to its executive application. Readers would also recall that in my second post I had speculated that the Gujarat mobile Internet ban suffered from overbreadth in treating all mobile apps (communication or otherwise) the same and restricting their access.

In our present case, the Court held that the restrictions to freedom of speech by the mobile Internet ban were minimal (and thus presumably narrowly tailored) because citizens still had access to the internet through broadband and wifi. This is a classic case of viewing the glass half-full or half-empty. On the one hand, the complete mobile data disruptions could be seen as absolute and affecting all smartphone users. On the other hand, as the Court has done, these data disruptions could be seen as reasonable as there is no complete ban on the Internet (with the provisions of broadband and wifi) but only on a particular mode of technological access to the same. In legal standards, the former perspective may be seen to be speech-protective while the latter speech-restrictive.

It is unfortunate that the Court chose the latter view, however what is abysmal is its reasoning. The Court’s reasons rested on two limbs. First, it held that as a matter of course, the executive authority should be allowed to devise its own manner of regulation. Secondly, and shockingly, the Court found

that there are [sic] number of social media sites which may not be required to be blocked independently or completely. But if Internet access through mobiles is blocked by issuing directions to the mobile companies, such may possibly be [sic] more effective approach found by the competent authority.

This is a textbook example of overbreadth. The Court concedes that there was no necessity to block all social media sites, though it was well worth the set off with a “possibly” more effective approach of counter-action. The requirement that restrictions on free speech be narrowly tailored obviously have no-takers. The Court also shares no analysis on why restrictions to access to other apps (say internet banking or hotel reservation) should also pass constitutional muster.

By finding that mobile Internet shutdowns are reasonable, the Court also does not take heed to the classes that rely exclusively on mobile data as their source of Internet communication/activity. I will go out on a limb and assert that it’s the less-privileged that fall within this class, without the knowledge or the resources to operate a computer with broadband internet. Consider also that 56% of all phones in Gujarat are smartphones.

As we progress towards an age where Internet on-the-go becomes more important than ever, it is all the more necessary to steer clear of rulings that submit to internet shutdowns.

Nakul Nayak was a Fellow at the Centre for Communication Governance from 2015-16.

The Anatomy of Internet Shutdowns – II (Gujarat & Constitutional Questions)

Written by Nakul Nayak

In the last post I discussed the panoply of laws surrounding internet shutdowns in India and concluded that though there might be indirect regulatory connections to justify such shutdowns, they appear to be flimsy at best. In this post, I shall discuss the current internet shutdown in Gujarat in particular and whether these executive actions would pass constitutional muster.

As news reports would tell you, the Patidar reservation agitation began sometime in July, 2015. The community’s sole demand is to receive reservation benefits under India’s complex affirmative action formula. As momentum for the agitation picked up, a major demonstration dubbed Kranti Rally was organised in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, with over half a million reportedly attending. Hardik Patel, the face of the movement, was arrested for not obtaining permission to stay on the ground after the rally and was later released. This coupled with instances of police violence heightened tensions within the state, manifesting itself in violence and vandalism of public property. That very night, Hardik Patel sent a WhatsApp message to his followers, urging them to maintain calm and simultaneously calling for a bundh the next day. Soon after, Whatsapp along with mobile internet in many parts of Gujarat shut down. They have been ever-since in major cities.

The current mobile internet disruptions are a blot on free speech in Gujarat. In the latter section of this post, I would go on to explain how this disruption is constitutionally overbroad and may constitute illegitimate prior restraint. However, taking off from where I left in the last post, my first quibble would be against the non-conformity with procedural propriety (assuming there is one) in directing the present blockage. Sec. 69A of the IT Act, which appears to be textually closest to affording kill switch powers, may only be initiated and implemented by the Central Government. On the other hand, sec. 5(2) of the Telegraph Act, which grants powers to detain or stop the transmission of messages, may be exercised by both the central and state governments. Contractually speaking, it appears from a liberal view of the Licence Agreement between the telecos and the Central Government, one may similarly conclude that both the central and state governments can direct actions of service disruptions.

However, when the Indian Express asked Dhananjay Dwivedi, Secretary of Science and Technology Department, when data services would be restored, he is reported to have said that “the decision was not taken by the state government but by local administration and police”. If this is true, then the directions to the telecos would smack of procedural lapses. Local authorities (as opposed to the state government) have nowhere been recognized under either of the statutes (IT Act or the Telegraph Act) or the Licence Agreement. They have assumed powers of ordering network disruptions without actually possessing them. In fairness, there are other reports that the District Collectors of Ahmdeabad, Vadodara etc. alongwith the police have taken this step. Technically, they would fall under the ambit of the ‘state government’. However, their websites have remained unavailable for access of notifications or circulars in this respect.

On substance, the current internet shutdown in Gujarat may fall foul to constitutional free speech standards on two counts:

a) overbreadth and

b) prior restraint.

The Gujarat authorities have directed telecos to disable access to 2G and 3G mobile data in the entire state. In addition, according to some reports, certain social media websites such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been specifically blocked. Thus, netizens may not even access these websites through broadband. While the wisdom of the move to disable social media is debateable, it is undeniable that the absolute constraint on data access is inimical to the central notion of Article 19(2). As the Supreme Court reiterated in Shreya Singhal, “restrictions on the freedom of speech must be couched in the narrowest possible terms”. Consider the celebrated SC decision in Kameshwar Prasad, where a rule, formulated in the interest of public order, forbidding participation in any demonstrations by public servants was challenged. After holding that demonstrations constitute expression, the Court went on to characterise the various kinds of demonstrations, finding that some may be peaceful, some passive and some capable of public disorder. Finally, the Court found the blanket-ban unconstitutional, concluding

The vice of the rule, in our opinion, consists in this that it lays a ban on every type of demonstration – be the same however innocent and however incapable of causing a breach of public tranquility and does not confine itself to those forms of demonstrations which might lead to that result.[1]

Now substitute “demonstrations” with “internet communications”. Such communications quite clearly stand as a form of speech under Art. 19(1)(a). Not all kinds of internet communications cause incitement or are capable of disturbing the public tranquillity. By directing a blanket ban on all mobile internet communications – innocent or otherwise – the Gujarat authorities’ actions are quite clearly overbroad. Its effects are not just felt by the protesters and rioters that it was meant for, but also hinders community life by hampering communication lines between ordinary citizens and debilitates economic life by demoralising businesses employing said ordinary citizens.

Further, the shutdown has been grounded on the public order/incitement restrictions of Art. 19(2) i.e. to prevent public disorder and the incitement to offences of fellow citizens. However, any public order speech restriction must be narrowly tailored and have “proximate and direct nexus with the expression”.[2] The Shreya Singhal judgment arrived at the Clear and Present Danger test in public order restrictions, expounded first by Justice Holmes in Schenck v US.[3] It may be relevant to note here that the US itself has abandoned this test for the more speech-liberal Brandenburg[4] test of imminent lawless action. The Indian SC recognised this as much in Arup Bhuyan. According to this standard, three conditions to be proven for a speech to constitute incitement;

Intent: That the speech must have the object of promoting violence

Imminence: That the speech must lead to imminent lawless action, and

Likelihood: That the speech was likely to create such lawless action.

The dichotomy in standard-setting aside, it is evident that not all communications over mobile internet have any connection with the Patidar reservation. In fact, most communication in any public order situation revolve around safety and emergency, with small pockets of incitement. Conversely, the blanket ban on all mobile texting conversation and blockage of social media in particular would fail the test of free speech.

But even beyond constitutional considerations, one must take note of the utilitarian benefits social media websites play during emergency situations. They may be used to mass-communicate first-hand information and alert authorities and first responders. In 2011, when an earthquake struck the US, more than 40,000 earthquake-related tweets were up on the web within a minute of the first shock. This was highly appreciated by Emergency Management professions. Closer home, the Nepal earthquake highlights the important role played by open data and social media in obviating confusion and consternation in the aftermath of the disaster. Facebook Safety Check was also instrumental in this regard.[5]

Now might be an appropriate time to traverse to our next argument on prior restraint. These may be defined as state restrictions on speech before its very publication. Prior restraints are generally regarded as unconstitutional under Indian law. In two celebrated decisions – Brij Bhushan and Romesh Thappar – the Supreme Court found prior restraints on print media to be generally unconstitutional. In Auto Shankar’s case, the Court went even further and held that defamatory materials of state officials may never be subject to prior restraints. The remedy of the officials would lie in post-publication prosecutions. However, in KA Abbas, the Supreme Court took a step back and struck a different balance between cinema and free speech. The Court decided to treat “motion pictures” differently from other forms of art and expression. The Court’s rationale arose

… from the instant appeal of the motion picture, its versatility, realism (often surrealism), and its coordination of the visual and aural senses. The art of the cameraman, with trick photography, vistavision and three dimensional representation thrown in, has made the cinema picture more true to life than even the theatre or indeed any other form of representative art. The motion picture is able to stir up emotions more deeply than any other product of art. … It is also for this reason that motion picture must be regarded differently from other forms of speech and expression. A person reading a book or other writing or hearing a speech or viewing a painting or sculpture is not so deeply stirred as by seeing a motion picture.

The Gujarat internet disruption portends important questions of prior restraint in an hitherto jurisprudentially unconventional medium; the internet. By disallowing access to mobile internet and blocking certain social media websites in particular, the authorities have no doubt imposed a wide array of prior restraint; foreclosing communication, business transactions, file sharing etc. Would mobile internet communication fall within the Brij BhushanRomesh Thappar print media standard of prior restraint, which lays an extremely strict scrutiny of speech restrictions? Or would file sharing, being a common feature of communication apps like WhatsApp/Instagram/Facebook/Youtube, attract the KA Abbas motion picture standard of prior restraint? Or would mobile internet communications warrant an all-together different prior restraint standard?

There appears to be no clear-cut answer yet. [Edit: Moreover, Nariman J., in Shreya Singhal accepted an intelligible differentia argument under Art. 14,[6] but limited it only to the creation of technology-specific offences.][7] The Court very clearly held that the threshold for curbing content on the internet cannot all-together be new. Yet the reasonableness of prior restraint standards over the internet still seems to be in limbo. To take an example, there are apps like Whatsapp that are *more* electronic in a sense than ordinary internet chatting apps that don’t allow file (photo/video) transfers. Would the latter merit the Brij Bhushan standard or the KA Abbas standard?

Concluding our two-part discussion on internet shutdowns, I observe the following:

  1. Internet shutdowns in India fall in a sort of regulatory no-man’s land. Accordingly, central, state, and local authorities are able to order them without thinking twice about accountability.
  2. The current internet disruptions in Gujarat do not distinguish between innocuous and incendiary speech, restricting all of them in a blanket-ban that is resonant of policies of dictatorial regimes such as Syria and Egypt. Devoid of being narrowly tailored, the shutdown is fatally overbroad.
  3. The prior restraint standards that may be applicable over internet communications must be addressed by the Courts/Parliament urgently. Sandwiched between conventional media and motion pictures, internet texting apps suffer from shades of grey that desperately need colouring.

Nakul Nayak was a Fellow at the Centre for Communication Governance from 2015-16.

[1] Kameshwar Prasad, page 384.

[2] S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan & Ors., (1989) 2 SCC 574, para. 45.

[3] 63 L. Ed. 470, at 473-74.

[4] Brandenburg v. Ohio, 23 L. Ed. 2d 430 (1969).

[5] My thanks to Joshita Pai for pointing this to me.

[6] Shreya Singhal, paras. 97-98.

[7] I should thank Gautam Bhatia for correcting me on this.

(Nakul is a Research Fellow at the Centre)

The Anatomy of Internet Shutdowns – I (Of Kill Switches and Legal Vacuums)

Written by Nakul Nayak

For the past four days, news reports have been flowing in about the shutdown of internet services in Gujarat. With the tense law and order situation prevalent over the Patirdar reservation protests, state government authorities have decided to block access to internet for citizens in Gujarat. However, conflicting reports about the scope of the blockage (whether just mobile or even broadband) or its reach (whether Ahmedabad and Surat only or the whole of the state) do not permit any general, verifiable comment as yet. Yet the confusion does not stop here.

The business of widespread internet blocking in India seems to fall within a regulatory vacuum. Ostensibly this ambiguity is currently being used by the local authorities in Gujarat to justify this most fundamental of all network restrictions – disrupting data access. We may never know. Telecos without hesitation follow local government ‘directives’ on barring internet services, fearing governmental backlash. As a Scroll article noted back in 2014, this compliance mechanism finds itself grounded in sec. 188 of the IPC, relating to disobedience to an order given by a public servant.

Over a two part series, I discuss the legal provisions grappling with internet shutdowns and the constitutionality of the current network disruption in Gujarat (which shall continue for two more days at least). This post deals the competing legal grounds on which turning on the internet “kill switch” may be justified by any government.

Perhaps most closely connected with this issue from a textual standpoint is the Information Technology Act, 2000. The question of the applicability of the IT Act to mobile telephony seems rather straightforward. Sec. 2(1)(ha) of the Act defines “Communication device” to include cell phones. “Communication device” has been further used as a subset of “Computer Resource” under sec. 2(k). This is important because sec. 69A of the IT Act, a rather notorious legal provision, gives powers to the Central Government to block access “by public any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource.” Thus, the Central Government has legal backing to disrupt data services in mobile phones. In essence, sec. 69A grants authority to the Central Government to block access to webpages, websites etc. Indeed, it has conventionally been used only against information on the web. It remains unclear whether it could be used to prevent access to the web itself.

Sec. 69A receives some credibility in legal circles[1] for its inbuilt adjudicatory mechanisms following principles of natural justice under the Blocking Access Rules, 2009 framed particularly for this purpose. On the question of its efficacy in situations of public disorder, the adjudicatory mechanism may be replaced wholesale through an emergency provision.[2]

However, the applicability of sec. 69A to the current internet disruption in Gujarat appears highly unlikely because it fails a preliminary hurdle. Sec. 69A blocks may only be initiated by the Central Government. In Gujarat, the local police seem to have directed telecos to shut public access to the internet.

Another regulatory source for internet disruption may be the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. While originally intended to regulate telegraphs, a flurry of amendments expanded the scope of the Act to regain relevance. As the Supreme Court observed in May this year,

Strangely, there is no enactment in this country dealing with the establishment and working of telephones. The 160 year old telegram system in this country was officially closed on 14th July, 2013. Ironically, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 still continue on the statute book. By virtue of the various amendments made from time to time, these two enactments still continue to govern the entire activity of establishment, maintenance and working of telephones and various other telecommunication services.[3]

Of particular importance to our discussion here is sec. 5 of the Telegraph Act, which attached the Government with the power to detain or even intercept messages. Specifically, sec. 5(2) states

(2) On the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of the public safety, the Central Government or a State Government … may, if satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do in the interests of … public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence, for reasons to be recorded in writing, by order, direct that any message … shall not be transmitted, or shall be intercepted or detained …

It is evident that the state government may block the transmission of any message, provided it falls within the contours of Art. 19(2) of the Constitution (relevant here are the public order and incitement exceptions). At the outset, unlike under the IT Act, the Telegraph Act does not discriminate in affording powers to the Central and the State Governments. However, the textual backing for widespread internet disruption appears shoddy. Arguably, on a long shot, the power to stop the transmission of communication or detain it may be interpreted as the ends to justify the means that is internet blocking.

Employing little logic, back in 2012, the J&K home Department issued a Government Order completely blocking access to “, etc”. Aside from the very disconcerting “etc.”, it may be noted that the J&K government cited its powers under sec. 5(2) of the Telegraph Act as its basis to block these websites. Yet, there exists a more direct provision in statute books to block access to particular websites – sec. 69A of the IT Act, as I discussed above. The use of sec. 5(2) of the Telegraph Act by the J&K Government is evidence of the confusion prevalent among the government authorities about what laws apply and how they effect action.

Going beyond the realm of statutes and into the world of contract, reference may be made to the Licence Agreement for Unified Licence between the teleco and the Central Government (more specifically, the Department of Telecommunications). Clause 39.15 under Chapter VI (Security Conditions) expressly obliges the teleco,

The Government through appropriate notification may debar usage of mobile terminals in certain areas in the country. The LICENSEE shall deny Service in areas specified by designated authority immediately and in any case within six hours on request.

Two issues arise here. First, the term ‘Government’ is vague. Other clauses of the Agreement employ more precise terms such as ‘Central Government’, ‘Government of India’, ‘Licensor’, ‘DoT’, ‘State Government’. By employing the generic term ‘Government’, it is unclear if State Governments have the power to direct telecos to deny data services, or if it is restricted to the Central Government. Second, there is no trace of ‘appropriate notification’ being issued to order the current Gujarat internet block. While there may be no obligation to publish contractual notifications in the public domain, it would be wise to incorporate this as a governmental best practice to pin accountability.

As observed above, the blocking of the web itself, as opposed to information on the web, appears to wrest on multiple albeit flimsy legal grounds. The preliminary questions of who may issue such directives (Central Government only or even state governments), their legal basis, and larger issues of public transparency in issuing notifications need to be resolved. Hitherto, only politically disturbed areas such as J&K have used the instrument of network disruptions to quell public order situations.

A year back, Gujarat witnessed a similar internet shutdown in Vadodara following communal unrest over a Facebook post. That may have well been the first time a conventionally non-disturbed state employed this tactic as a law and order remedy. However, the Gujarat government’s turning back to this tactic to pacify the current Patirdar situation might be evidence that this form of counter-action is here to stay. We would do well to frame a clear policy for such future shutdowns; a policy that respects freedom of speech and strikes the right balance with compelling state interests.

Nakul Nayak was a Fellow at the Centre for Communication Governance from 2015-16.

[1] The Supreme Court in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India refused to find sec. 69A unconstitutional.

[2] See Rule 9, Blocking Access Rules.

[3] Bharati Airtel Ltd v. UoI, para 4,