Supreme Court says indefinite Kashmir internet shutdown unwarranted

New Delhi (Reuters) – India’s Supreme Court said on Friday that the indefinite shutdown of the internet in Kashmir was unwarranted, rebuking the government for the communications lockdown imposed after it withdrew the Muslim majority region’s autonomy in August.

The court said the indefinite suspension violated India’s telecoms rules, and ordered authorities in Kashmir to review all curbs in a week’s time.

“Freedom of Internet access is a fundamental right,” Supreme Court justice N. V. Ramana said, delivering the ruling.

As a security measure to prevent the spread of dissent in Kashmir, the government snapped all public telecommunications connections including mobile phones and internet, arguing it was essential to maintain calm.

Although some mobile phone connections have since been restored, the internet shutdown is still in place in parts of the Himalayan region, which is also claimed by Pakistan.

The loss of internet has severely disrupted the lives of around 7 million people in the Kashmir valley, impacting everything from college admissions to businesses filing tax returns.

“The court also said the freedom of press is impacted by the shutdown,” said Vrinda Grover, an advocate representing petitioners, which include journalists and civil society members. “It is an abuse of power.”