Manipur HC directs state government to allow internet in areas with no ethnic violence on a trial basis

The directions came after the state government had extended the internet ban to November 8 in view of the apprehensions of misuse of social media by anti-social elements

On November 6, the Manipur High Court directed the state government to operationalise such mobile towers in districts that have not been affected by ethnic strife on a trial basis. The said direction was issued by a Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Golmei Gaiphulshillu Kabui after the Manipur government extended the mobile internet ban in the state till November 8. The Commissioner (Home) of Manipur government had issued the said order.

As per a report of the Bar and Bench, the internet ban was extended by the government following apprehensions that “anti-social elements might use social media extensively for transmission of images, hate speeches and hate video messages, inciting the passions of the public which might have serious repercussions for the law-and-order situation in the state”. As per media reports, a mob had attacked a camp of 1 Manipur Rifles to loot its armoury last week which had prompted security personnel to fire several rounds in the air. The next hearing for compliance of the matter has been scheduled on November 9.

Internet ban in Manipur:

Barring a few days in September, a ban on the mobile internet has remained imposed in Manipur since the beginning of ethnic clashes in the state. Since May 3, ethnic strife in the state has affected at least ten districts and resulted in a large number of deaths, violence and displacement. There are period outbreaks of violence in the state. More than 180 people have been killed since then. Broadband services, which were also banned from May 4 for around two months, were made partially available since mid-July.

A deep dive into Manipur’s incessant internet ban can be read here.

Directions of the High Court:

The bench had asked the state “to extend the services to areas” which were unaffected by violence. They had also instructed the state for extending the same services to other areas if the law-and-order situation permits. Notably, the bench also directed the state to upload the copies of all the orders issued in relation to the suspension or curbing of mobile internet data services on its official website.

The aforementioned directions of the court were issued after the Special State counsel for Manipur government submitted a copy of the order issued by the state government in the Court. During the hearing, Yoihenba Dhruva Aribam, advocate for one of the petitioners who had filed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL), had expressed optimism that the state administration will follow the high court’s orders. The lawyer had also expressed confidence in the All-Naga Students’ Association Manipur, stating that they will remove its economic blockade in protest of the extending of the internet ban in hill regions that had not been touched by the violence.

As per a report of ABPLive, the Court held that after having heard the learned counsel on behalf of the parties, the bench will be issuing a directive to the state of Manipur to open and operationalise mobile towers on a trial basis in all those District Headquarters which 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.



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