Telcos move DoT against internet curbs in Rajasthan

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State officials in Rajasthan have issued almost 140 orders to suspend internet services in the last one year.

New Delhi: The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has requested the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to address the frequent suspension of internet services in Rajasthan as it inconveniences users and goes against the Digital India mission.

In a letter addressed to Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan dated 8 August, the telco lobby group said internet suspension is quite frequent in Rajasthan, indicating that in any adverse circumstance, the first step by the local administration is to suspend internet services.

State officials in Rajasthan have issued almost 140 orders to suspend internet services in the last one year, the letter said. Mint has seen a copy of the letter.

The letter comes weeks after DoT, on 18 July, wrote to the industry body as well as Companies, including Bharti Airtel Ltd, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd, Idea cellular Ltd and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, requesting them to “explore various possible options and confirm how Instagram/Facebook/WhatsApp/Telegram and such other mobile apps can be blocked on the internet.”

Most recently, Rajasthan had shut down internet services to prevent cheating in police constable recruitment examinations.

“It appears that no other alternative measures are being taken at the examination centres by the invigilating authorities to restrict the usage of mobile phones during examinations except to issue orders for suspension of internet services,” COAI director general Rajan Mathews said in the letter.

Internet ban is not warranted, until and unless public emergency and public safety is impacted and such frequent misuse causes grave hardship to the public at large, the letter added.

Under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, the state home secretary can issue such orders, or in unavoidable circumstances, such direction may be issued by an officer, not below the rank of a joint secretary, but with the home secretary’s consent in 24 hours.

COAI also alleged that Rajasthan has violated this regulation by delegating these powers to divisional commissioners in the state. “In ordinary circumstances, delegation of such powers is not permitted under the mentioned rules,” the letter said.

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