Supreme Court Declines Urgent Listing Of Plea Challenging Internet Shutdown In Manipur, Says HC Is Hearing Similar Matters
The Supreme Court on Friday declined the urgent listing of a plea challenging the internet shutdown in the State of Manipur today. The plea challenging the internet ban which has been continuing in the State of Manipur since May 3 2023 was mentioned by Advocate Shadan Farasat before a vacation bench comprising Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Rajesh Bindal. However, noting that the matter...
The Supreme Court on Friday declined the urgent listing of a plea challenging the internet shutdown in the State of Manipur today. The plea challenging the internet ban which has been continuing in the State of Manipur since May 3 2023 was mentioned by Advocate Shadan Farasat before a vacation bench comprising Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Rajesh Bindal. However, noting that the matter was already ongoing before the High Court of Manipur, the vacation bench declined to urgently list the matter and asked Farasat to mention the matter before the regular court.
Highlighting the urgency of the matter, Advocate Farasat said–
"This is regarding the internet ban in the State of Manipur. The ban has continued. It has been 35 days now."
The internet shutdown was imposed in the State after riots being triggered due to a direction of the Manipur High Court to consider the inclusion of Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list.
Justice Bose remarked–
"The High Court is hearing the matter. What's the need to duplicate proceedings?"
The bench also asked Farasat to mention the matter before the regular bench.
Chongtham Victor Singh, a lawyer in the Manipur High Court, and Mayengbam James, a businessman, both stated to be residents of Manipur, have filed the petition. The petitioners state that the shutdown has had a significant economic, humanitarian, social, and psychological impact on both the Petitioners and their families. They have been unable to send their children to school, access funds from banks, receive payments from clients, distribute salaries, or communicate via email or WhatsApp.
It highlights that despite gradual return to normalcy, “the state-wide internet shutdown order issued by the Respondent on 03.05.2023, and 04.05.2023 was mechanically extended on 07.05.2023, 11.05.2023, 16.05.2023, 21.05.2023 and 26.05.2023, effectively resulting in an indefinite shutdown of the internet.”
Consequently, there has been a complete blockade of internet access across the state for more than 24 days, causing significant harm to the rights of the Petitioners and other residents, it added. The petitioners argue that the shut down is disproportionate interference with their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) and the right to carry on any trade or business under Article 19(1)(g).
“Continued suspension of the Internet for the purpose of preventing rumour-mongering and the spread of misinformation does not pass the threshold prescribed by the Telecom Suspension Rules 2017,” the petition claims.
The petitioners also highlight to the Court that the State have, till date, not published the impugned orders imposing a suspension of Internet services, either on their website or on Twitter handle.
“Additionally, they have not published a confirmation of the order by the Review Committee.This is in direct contravention of the Supreme Court’s holding in Anuradha Bhasin v.UOI case.”
The petitioner seeks direction to the Respondent to “restore internet access” in the state of Manipur and to declare the declaration of internet shut down in the state as “illegal”.
Furthermore, the Petitioners seek consequential directions to ensure that the state respects their fundamental right to access the internet under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India, the decision of the Supreme Court in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India (2020), Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act, 1885, and the Telecom Suspension Rules, 2017.
Violence broke out in Manipur in the first week of May following a High Court direction to consider granting Scheduled Tribe status to Meitei community. Another petition is pending in the Supreme Court seeking independent probe into the clashes between different communities in the State. Earlier this week, Union Home Minister announced that the matter will be investigated by a three-member panel headed by former Gauhati High Court Chief Justice Ajai Lamba.
Case Title: Chongtham Victor Singh & Anr.v.State of Manipur