Indian Government Decides to Kill the Internet during Times of National Emergencies

By | June 2, 2011

The GOI (Government of India) has taken the authority itself to switch off the Internet during the time of national emergencies. This made the country to become one of the first few countries to assume such a far reaching authority. Even major developed countries like US and other Western nations are still debating on the judiciousness of giving the government complete control to shut down cyber cafes.

India has about 70 million Internet users and it is growing with 25% of growth rate year on year. Keeping this increase in view, India has moved a step ahead and incorporated a provision under 69A of the IT Act of 2008, giving the Central Government or any IT authorized officers to block the Internet if necessary. Internet will be shut down in the interest of self-government and integrity of India, its defense, and security of its states, friendly relations with foreign states or for public order. And it may subject to the provisions of sub section (2) for reasons to be recorded in writing, by order direct any agency of the government or intermediary to block access by the public or cause to be blocked for access by public any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource.

If anyone fails to switch off the Internet and goes against the Government, will be imprisoned for 7 years. This move is considered to be very important, as it gives the government overriding powers over the fast-growing and widely used resources, and one that is becoming increasingly crucial in the conducting commerce and social interaction.

Considering the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, this amendment was pushed by GOI. According to the supporters of Internet “kill switch”, it will enable countries to prevent the spread of false information during the times of national crisis and help coordinate a coherent response without any sign of public panic. But it can also be misused by governments to shut down legitimate protests and exercise illegal power during the situations of public opposition.

According to the Ministry of IT & Communications, India is now moving ahead to develop alternate plans in case the switch does not work. The other alternative which is being considered is ‘Choking’, which means handicapping the servers by subjecting it to multiple requests and attacks and preventing it from functioning effectively. Experts are of opinion that choking is the best option, as ‘switch kill’ can lead to many legal complications.