SC refuses urgent listing of plea challenging Internet shutdown in Manipur

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to urgently list a plea challenging the Internet shutdown in violence-hit Manipur since May 3.

A vacation bench comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Rajesh Bindal noted that the Manipur High Court is already hearing the matter, therefore there is no need to duplicate the proceedings.

“No need to duplicate proceedings,” said the bench. Advocate Shadan Farasat, representing the petitioners, insisted for urgent listing of the matter. The bench said there is no urgency in the matter.

“Let it go before the regular bench…,” said the top court.

The plea has been filed by Chongtham Victor Singh, a lawyer in the Manipur High Court, and Mayengbam James, a businessman, both are residents of Manipur.

The plea submitted that Internet shutdown has had a significant economic, humanitarian, social, and psychological impact on both the petitioners and their families. It argued that petitioners have been unable to access funds from banks, receive payments from clients, distribute salaries, or communicate via email or WhatsApp.

According to the plea, the imposition of the Internet shutdown was a response to reported incidents of violence during rallies organised by volunteers and youth protesting the demand for inclusion of the Meitei/Meetei community within the Scheduled Tribe category. These clashes escalated into widespread arson, violence, and killings across the state, which justified a temporary and timebound shutdown of the Internet, it added.

The plea said, “There has been a complete blockade of Internet access across the state for more than 24 days, causing significant harm to the rights of the petitioners and other residents. Not only have they experienced feelings of fear, anxiety, helplessness, and frustration as a result of the shutdown, but they have also been unable to communicate with their loved ones or office colleagues, straining personal, professional, and social relationships.”

It said, “Additionally, they have been unable to send their children to school, access their bank accounts, receive or send payments, obtain essential supplies and medicines, and more, bringing their lives and livelihoods to a standstill.”

The plea said, “In light of this grossly disproportionate interference with the petitioners’ constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) and the right to carry on any trade or business under Article 19(1)(g) through the constitutionally protected medium of the Internet, the petitioners have filed this petition seeking a direction to the respondent to restore Internet access in the state of Manipur”.

The plea sought a direction to declare various orders to shut down the Internet to be illegal.

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