Doctrine of proportionality is a principle that is prominently used as a ground for judicial review in cases of administrative action.We live in an age where administrative authorities have been empowered to exercise discretionary powers, the position holders in the administration exercise wide discretionary powers and these powers cannot be used arbitrarily, therefore to keep a check on them, the doctrine of proportionality is used. While exercising administrative action, the body should keep in mind the purpose it seeks to obtain and the means it is using to achieve it, and if its actions deviate from the object or are discriminatory or disproportionate then they would be quashed by the court by using the doctrine of proportionality.

“’Proportionality’ is a principle where the Court is concerned with the process, method or manner in which the decision-maker has ordered his priorities, reached a conclusion or arrived at a decision.”[1]

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Case facts

'Doctrine of proportionality' for curbs must be followed: SC
‘Doctrine of proportionality’ for curbs must be followed: SC

Describing access to the Internet as a fundamental right guaranteed under freedom of speech, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to review within a week all restrictions that are in place since the special status of the state was ended and it was bifurcated into two union territories.

Stating that accessing the Internet was part of freedom of speech and expression and an integral part of Article 19 (1) (A) of the Constitution, the court urged the government to consider the restoration of government websites and e-facilities in which internet abuse is minimal.

A total online ban must be considered only as an extraordinary measure, the apex court ruled. The Internet has remained suspended in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5.

The court went on to say that fundamental rights such as freedom of speech should also meet the test of proportionality.

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Doctrine of proportionality  is used whenever an authority overly exercise its rights and duties without giving a fair or just explanation as to why is it applied, till when is it applied, till what duration it is applied and so on.

We know that our fundamental rights are not absolute but we can approach to the high court or Supreme Court directly if we think there is an infringement of the rights. But the condition is that we need to have proper material which proves that the restrictions imposed to us are unreasonable and unjust like in the above stated case.

Here, there was infringement in the Article 19(1) (a) of fundamental right as there was a complete ban on the usage of internet from August 5. The apex court held that;

“The state must assess the existence of an alternative, less intrusive remedy. Any order suspending internet services, under the suspension rules, must adhere to the principle of proportionality and must not extend beyond necessary duration”


Here, the internet ban on governmental sites and e-banking facility was inappropriate as it lead to no misuse of internet. This was the reason that the court directed notification of all prohibitory orders as well as orders on the suspension of internet and telecom services.

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[1]Coimbatore District Central Coop. Bank v. Employees Assn., (2007) 4 SCC 669.