New Delhi: Telecom companies Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea on Thursday tweeted out that they received instructions from the government authorities to suspend mobile Internet services in certain parts of the city.
These tweets, some of which have been deleted since, reinforced anecdotal reports by protestors that mobile services had been snapped.
While not confirmed, the suspension orders likely stem from law enforcement agencies wanting to restrict the intensity of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
In remarks made to television channels, when asked about this, Bharti Airtel boss Sunil Mittal said they were just following the orders of the government.
In the last few hours, the Twitter handles of both Airtel and Vodafone-Idea reached out to customers and informed them of the government’s blocking orders.
Later in the day, an official blocking order from the Dehli police’s special cell showing suspension of mobile services also made the rounds.
Delhi Police Special Cell had directed on 18Dec that voice, SMS,internet services be halted from 9am to 1pm today,in walled city areas of north¢ral districts,Mandi House,Seelampur,Jafrabad,Mustafabad, Jamia Nagar, Shaeen Bagh&Bawana, in view of prevailing law&order situation pic.twitter.com/Qk2sk0TKI1
— ANI (@ANI) December 19, 2019
Hi! We're complying with instructions received from govt. authorities on suspending Voice, SMS and data in certain areas in Delhi. Once the suspension orders are lifted, our services will be fully up and running. We’re sorry about the inconvenience. Thank you, Manisha https://t.co/2G23qpsqlP
— Bharti Airtel India (@Airtel_Presence) December 19, 2019
Hi! As per the directive received from the Government, Services are stopped at few locations (Jamia, Saheen bagh, Bawana, Seelampur, Jaffrabad, Mandi House and part of Walled city). As a result of this you will not be able to use services till 1pm at these locations – Urvi
— Vodafone (@VodafoneIN) December 19, 2019
The government derives its authority to shut down telecom and Internet services from the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017.
Framed under the Telegraph Act, 1885, critics argue that this rule gives the Union and state governments sweeping powers to suspend Internet services, without providing accountability and transparency.
Over the last few hours, many protestors in New Delhi have raised concerns about how mobile and voice services have been snapped in the ITO area and in parts of the city around Red Fort.
“It’s really concerning that the capital city of the largest democracy in the world has shut the internet down and cut off its citizens from communicating. This is unprecedented and could have an irreversible and detrimental impact on India’s aspiration to become a Digital Leader,” Mishi Choudhary, technology lawyer and Managing Partner at Mishi Chouhdary and Associates.