SC refuses to entertain plea against internet shutdown in Manipur, allows petitioner to approach High Court

Public TV English
Public TV English
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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed a petitioner, challenging the suspension of internet services in the violent hit State since May 3, to approach the Manipur High Court with his plea since the High Court is seized of a similar issue.

A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and Manoj Misra asked the petitioner’s counsel to approach the Manipur High Court as a similar matter is pending there.

“The division bench is seized of the matter. Why don’t you move the High Court? Because the moment we issue notice, High Court will stop looking into the matter,” CJI Chandrachud told advocate Shadan Farast appearing for two Manipuri residents, advocate Chongtham Victor Singh and businessman Mayengbam James.

At the outset, Farasat said 14 orders have been issued and 65 days till now when the internet is suspended in Manipur and asked the apex court to hear the case.

The bench, however, noted the division bench of the High Court is hearing a similar matter and it has also constituted a committee to find out whether the internet could be restored in the State. It noted that the hearing before the High Court is scheduled for today.

“Yesterday we recommended the appointment of regular Chief Justice of Manipur. Withdraw (petition) from here and file in the High Court,” CJI told the lawyer.

Accordingly, the apex court in its order stated, “A division bench of the High Court of Manipur is already seized of the matter in which an expert committee was formed and directed to examine whether the internet could be restored in the State. Advocate Shadan Farasat states that the principle of proportionality also merits consideration in the matter. Faced with the fact that an Article 226 petition is also pending, Shadan Farasat seeks permission to withdraw this matter and intervene in the pending matter or file an independent petition before High Court. Permission granted.”

The plea was moved in the apex court saying their lives and livelihood have been severely affected by the statewide internet shutdown.
The plea said that the shutdown of the internet has had a significant economic, humanitarian, social, and psychological impact on both the petitioners and their families.

The petitioners 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, the plea said.

Chongtham Victor Singh had told ANI that there has been a complete blockade of internet access across the State for almost a month and it’s causing significant harm to people’s day-to-day life and their fundamental rights.

The ban on the internet was imposed on May 3 and remains in effect till now.

“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 stated.

There is no stipulated public order on the internet ban and did not go through the oversight of the Review Committee which is necessary under Law, he said.

The plea said that the order of the internet ban is strangulating the Freedom of Speech and Expression and the Freedom to carry on trade and occupation. The plea also stated that there is a violation of Rule 2(2) of the Telecom Suspension rules and hence they are unconstitutional.

The petitioners sought a restoration of the internet in Manipur, except for those in which there continues to be unrest and violence.

The top court took cognizance of the cases relating to the violence in Manipur and sought status reports from the Centre and State on the relief and rehabilitation efforts for the people affected by the violence between Meitei and Kuki communities.

Earlier, the top court expressed concern over the loss of lives and properties in Manipur during the violence between the Meitei and Kuki communities and stressed taking adequate measures to restore normalcy there.

On March 27, the High Court directed the State to consider the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list.
The violence in Manipur between the Hindu Meiteis and the tribal Kuki, who are Christians, erupted after a rally by the All Tribal Students Union of Manipur (ATSUM) on May 3.

Violence has gripped the entire State for over a month now and the Central government had to deploy paramilitary forces to bring the situation under control. (ANI)

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