The Manipur government has restored mobile internet services in additional parts of the state until December 18, according to a report by Economic Times. According to an order notified by the state Home Department, the ban would continue in border areas of nine districts including Chandel, Kakching, Churachandpur, Bishnupur, Kangpokpi, Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal and Tengnoupal, the ET report said.
In early November, the state government lifted mobile internet ban in four hill district headquarters which were not affected by the ongoing ethnic violence. The Manipur High Court, during a judgment on November 6, had directed the state government to “operationalize mobile towers, on a trial basis, in all those District Headquarters that have not been affected by violence and thereafter, if found feasible, extend the services to other areas where the law and order situation, so permits.”
Why it matters:
For over 200 days, internet ban has been greatly affecting the lives and livelihoods of Manipur residents. The state government had first imposed an internet ban on May 3 and had continued to re-circulate the shutdown order with extended dates citing “public order” reasons. While citizens have petitioned the Supreme Court that a prolonged ban on internet access infringed upon their fundamental rights and proved to be a disproportionate move, the Courts have refrained from engaging in the proportionality argument. However, on December 1, the Court did call out the government to be transparent about the ongoing events in different districts and said that reasonable restrictions cannot be used to erase people’s rights. Given that the Court will soon be checking the review report, more details on the work done by the government to provide internet services to the state can be expected.
Internet ban hinders access to justice: On December 1, the Court reiterated its directions for resuming mobile internet services in unaffected areas and highlighted that while imposing reasonable restrictions under the law can be permitted, the state cannot “obliterate” people’s right to access to internet, according to Bar & Bench. Notably, Chief Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Golmei Gaiphulshillu Kabui also pointed out that a prolonged internet ban will hinder people’s access to justice, questioning the state’s failure to comply with the Court’s earlier directions to lift internet ban in some parts of the state on a trial basis.
As reported by Bar & Bench, the Court also sought a detailed compliance report on its orders calling for restoration of the internet. “Having given our anxious consideration to the orders issued by the Review Committee from time to time, we observe that the directions issued by this Court in these Public Interest Litigations have been considered by the statutory authority merely in passing,” the judges remarked.
On November 9, the special state counsel for Manipur, M. Rarry, had submitted a compliance report stating that 41 towers have been operationalized in the districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Tamenglong, and Noney. The special state counsel also informed that the Director General of Police, Manipur, has not objected to the state government extending internet services to the district headquarters in Chandel, Jiribam, and Kamjong as well.
However, the Court has now asked for an elaborate original report to be submitted during the next hearing, which is scheduled for December 6, 2023.
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