9 July 2023 5:57 AM GMT
The Manipur High Court on Friday ordered the state government to lift the internet ban on Internet Lease Line (ILL) connections in the state after ensuring that all the stakeholders have complied with the safeguards suggested by an Expert Committee.The court also directed the government to consider restoring Fiber To The Home (FTTH) connections on a case-by-case basis, provided that...
The Manipur High Court on Friday ordered the state government to lift the internet ban on Internet Lease Line (ILL) connections in the state after ensuring that all the stakeholders have complied with the safeguards suggested by an Expert Committee.
The court also directed the government to consider restoring Fiber To The Home (FTTH) connections on a case-by-case basis, provided that the safeguards put on record by the expert committee are complied with.
The order was passed by Justices Ahanthem Bimol Singh and Guneshwar Sharma in an order in several public interest litigations (PILs) filed by various parties seeking the restoration of internet in the state.
During the course of hearing, the court heard arguments from both sides as well as representatives from service providers such as Airtel, Reliance, Jio, Vodafone, and BSNL, along with officials from the Central Government and the State Government.
Following earlier court directions in the matter, the government had constituted a 12 members Expert Committee to assess the feasibility of safely restore internet connectivity while maintaining restrictions on social media.
The Expert Committee, comprising members from various technical backgrounds, presented their expert opinions and proposed solutions for restoration of limited internet service while addressing the government's concerns about security and public safety. The court outlined its following key suggestions:
Limited Internet Service: All service providers operating in Manipur may be allowed to provide internet service to a restricted number of specially identified and whitelisted mobile numbers. These numbers will be provided by the Home Department of the Government of Manipur and the internet service will be exclusive to the identified mobile numbers, with no possibility of leakage or unauthorized access.
Safeguards for Broadband Connections: Internet service through broadband connections, including Internet Lease Line (ILL) and Fibre To The Home (FTTH), can be provided with certain safeguards in place. These safeguards include dedicated lease lines or FTTH lines with static IP, banning of Wi-Fi/hotspots, MAC binding at the system level or router, blocking of social media websites and VPNs, removal of existing VPN software, and prohibiting installation of new software without authorization. Physical monitoring by the concerned authorities is also enforced.
The state government, represented by the Commissioner (Home), also submitted with regard to the decisions it adopted with regard to lifting internet ban. However, during the hearing, the Commissioner (Home) and all the expert members unanimously submitted that there will be no problem or difficulty in lifting of the ban in respect of the Internet Lease Line (ILL) by ensuring and following the safeguards.
On lifting of the ban on FTTH, it was submitted that lifting of such ban can be carried out by ensuring the safeguards and by permitting the Home Department to consider lifting of such ban on case to case basis. However, with regard to the whitelisting of the mobile phone numbers and providing of internet service to those whitelisted mobile numbers, the State said it may be allowed to carry out a trial to examine and verify the feasibility of whitelisting mobile phone numbers and to submit a detailed report after conducting physical trial, in 15 fifteen days’ time.
Taking into account the unanimous view of the Commissioner (Home) and the expert members, the court directed the State to lift the ban on providing internet service through Internet Lease Line (ILL) throughout the state after ensuring that all the stakeholders have complied with the safeguards given by the Expert Committee.
With regard to FTTH, the court said that the lifting of the ban on providing internet service can be carried out by the Home Department on a case-to-case basis and after ensuring that all the stakeholders have duly complied with the safeguards given by the Expert Committee.
On the issue of whitelisting mobile phone numbers, the court directed the State to carry out physical trial to find out the feasibility of providing internet service to the whitelisted mobile phones without jeopardizing the security of the State and the life and property of the citizen and after such verification and submit a detailed report to the court within 15 days.
The court will consider the matter again on July 25.
Case Title: Aribam Dhananjoy Sharma @ Paojel Chaoba & ors. VS State of Manipur.
Click Here To Read/Download Order