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SC refuses to interfere with order lifting internet ban in Manipur, asks state to go back to HC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to interfere with the Manipur High Court’s order lifting the ban on the internet in the northeastern state.

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A bench, headed by CJI DY Chandrachud and comprising Justices P.S. Narasimha and Manoj Misra, granted liberty to the state government to go back to the high court for reconsideration of its decision.

As Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state, said that there were difficulties faced in implementing the high court’s order, the top court said that it will not enter into the issue and asked the state government to present its difficulties and apprehensions before the high court, which is slated to hear the internet-ban related matters on July 25.

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The apex court on Friday agreed to hear the plea filed by the Manipur government after it was mentioned for urgent listing.

On July 7, the Manipur High Court had directed to lift the ban on providing internet through Internet Lease Line (ILL) across the state after ensuring that all the stakeholders have complied with the safeguards given by the Expert Committee, constituted earlier by the court.

Some of the safeguards stipulated by the Expert Committee for internet access to be restored include limiting the speed to 10MBPS, securing undertakings from intended users that they will not indulge anything illegal, and subjecting the users to “physical monitoring by the concerned authority/officials”.

The directions came after a Public Interest Litigation filed was filed before the high court seeking restoration of internet services in Manipur, as internet suspension continued after the outbreak of the ethnic violence between the non-tribal Meitei and tribal Kuki communities since May 3.

As sporadic incidents of violence continued in Manipur, the state government suspended internet services to curb the spread of rumours and videos, photos, and messages, which might cause a deterioration in the law and order situation.

Earlier on July 6, the apex court had declined to entertain a petition challenging internet shutdown in Manipur, after noting that the state high court is already hearing a similar petition.

It had also refused to direct the army and paramilitary forces to provide security in tribal areas in Manipur, saying that the apex court, in its 72 years of existence, has never issued directions to the Army on how to conduct military, security, or rescue operations.

The Manipur Human Rights Commission (MHRC) headed by Justice Utpalendu Bikash Saha (retd) earlier asked the Manipur government to consider restoration of internet services which had been suspended since the ethnic violence broke out in the northeastern state.

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