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30 November 2020

Telecom temporary suspension rules amended by Central Government; Internet shutdowns can only be valid for 15 days

In exercise of the powers conferred by section 7 of the Indian Telegraph Act,1885 (13 of 1885), the Central Government has amended the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017.


Telecom temporary suspension rules amended by Central Government; Internet shutdowns can only be valid for 15 days


The amended rules may be called the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Amendment) Rules, 2020The orders are part of a Ministry of Communications Gazette notification dated 10th November 2020. They are applicable for all telecom services, which include telephone services, mobile telephone services and internet access services. The amended rules shall come into force on the date of their publication in the Official Gazette i.e., with effect from 10-11-2020.

The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Amendment) Rules, 2020

The amendment has been included as clause "2A", under sub-rule 2 of 'rule 2' in the already existing telecom suspension rules of 2017. The Gazette notification says - the suspension order issued by the competent authority under sub-rule (1) shall not be in operation for more than fifteen days. They shall come into force on the date of their publication in the Official Gazette.


Other rules, such as the issuance of these orders by Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs or the Secretary of the state government's home affairs department remain the same.


The DoT (Department of Telecommunication) published the  Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules in 2017 which were to be used by the central government, state government and district administrations in case of public emergencies and to ensure safety. Before the amendment, 'rule 2' only stipulated details of those who had the power to issue the suspension order, that they provide a reason for the order and that the suspension order copy must be forwarded to the concerned review committee set up to see if the order is in line with the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. It had, however, provided no time limit.


Rule 2 says - "In unavoidable circumstances, where obtaining of prior direction is not feasible, such order may be issued by an officer, not below the rank of a Joint Secretary to the Government of India, who has been duly authorized by the Union Home Secretary or the State Home Secretary." Such an order to suspend telecom service shall then have to be confirmed by a competent authority within 24 hours of it being issued, according to the rules.


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