Internet Ban Lifted in Manipur with Safety Measures: Manipur High Court's Decision

Editor Editor
Saturday, August 26, 2023
Internet Ban Lifted in Manipur with Safety Measures: Manipur High Court's Decision
Manipur High Court Directs Lift of Internet Ban with Safeguards
The Manipur High Court, in response to petitions seeking restoration of internet services in the state, has directed the Home Department to lift the ban on providing internet through Internet Lease Lines (ILLs). Limited access to internet services will be facilitated, and Fibre to Home (FTH) connections will be considered on a case-by-case basis, subject to compliance with the safeguards proposed by the Expert Committee. These safeguards include speed limitations, user undertakings, and physical monitoring by authorities. The court's decision aims to restore connectivity while ensuring adherence to necessary precautions.

Manipur faced an internet shutdown since May 3, following ethnic conflict between the Meitei and Kuki-Zomi communities. The Division Bench of Justices Ahanthem Bimol Singh and A. Guneshwar Sharma presided over the batch of petitions related to the restoration of internet services. After a detailed in-chamber hearing on July 7, the court issued directions to restore limited access to ILLs and explore the possibility of FTH connections and whitelisting mobile devices.

Expert Committee Safeguards:
The 12-member Expert Committee, formed by the High Court, proposed various safeguards for both ILLs and FTH connections. These include dedicated leased lines, MAC binding, blocking social media websites and VPNs, and physical monitoring by authorities. The State government, in a meeting with experts and telecom representatives, decided to cap the speed at 10MB/s for ILLs and FTHs. Users are required to provide undertakings that they will not engage in illegal activities or contribute to the ongoing law and order crisis.

Way Forward:
The court emphasized that lifting the ban on ILLs can proceed by adhering to the proposed safeguards. For FTH connections, the Home Department has the authority to consider on a case-by-case basis while ensuring compliance with the specified precautions. Additionally, the court directed the state government to conduct a physical trial to determine the feasibility of providing internet services to whitelisted mobile phones without compromising security. A report on the trial is expected before the next hearing on July 25.

Review Petitions and Appeal:
Review petitions challenging the ST status for Meiteis, as well as the appeal against the March 27 order, were adjourned. The review petitions are scheduled for the next hearing on August 7, while the appeal will be taken up again on July 28.

The Manipur High Court's directive to lift the internet ban through ILLs and explore FTH connections with safeguards aims to restore limited connectivity while ensuring compliance with necessary precautions. The decision acknowledges the importance of internet access for the public while prioritizing security and maintaining law and order in the state. The ongoing legal proceedings and physical trials will determine the way forward, with the aim of achieving a balance between connectivity and ensuring the safety and well-being of Manipur's citizens.