Manipur HC Asserts Internet as integral part of Freedom of Speech Challenges State’s Ban on Internet

LI Network

Published on: December 1, 2023 at 15:22 IST

The Manipur High Court emphasized that internet services are an integral part of freedom of speech, and the State government cannot continue the mobile internet ban across the entire State.

Chief Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Golmei Gaiphulshillu Kabui, comprising a division bench, questioned the government’s failure to fully comply with previous orders to restore internet services in areas not impacted by violence.

While acknowledging the government’s concerns about national security in certain areas, the bench stressed the importance of considering the rights of residents in unaffected regions.

The court insisted that while reasonable restrictions can be imposed in accordance with the law, the right to access the internet cannot be obliterated.

The Manipur High Court was addressing public interest litigation petitions challenging the ongoing internet ban.

Despite the State’s claim that normalcy has returned to most areas, the court questioned the need for continued restrictions, especially in peaceful regions.

The court had previously directed the State to activate mobile towers on a trial basis in unaffected district headquarters and evaluate the feasibility of restoring internet services in the Greater Imphal area.

However, the Court learned that the State had extended the mobile internet ban until December 3, except for previously lifted areas.

The court stated its call for restoring mobile internet services in Greater Imphal and other unaffected areas, emphasizing how the absence of internet connectivity hampers the dispensation of justice.

Highlighting the impact on access to justice, the court questioned how individuals in violence-affected areas would file complaints and seek legal recourse. Emphasizing that access to justice is not merely a slogan, the court called for ensuring that every citizen has the means to access justice.

Upon examining the review committee’s decisions under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, the court found that its earlier directions were considered only in passing.

Seeking a detailed status report on the orders for internet restoration, the court stressed the importance of balancing national security concerns with the rights of Manipur’s citizens.

The court adjourned the matter until the next week, emphasizing that the review committee must carefully consider the rights and concerns of the people before passing any order related to the internet ban.

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