This article on ‘Plea Challenges: Manipur Internet Shutdown in Supreme Court’ was written by Mohammed Zaid Alam, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
A plea has been recently filed in the Supreme Court challenging the internet shutdown imposed in the state of Manipur. This plea aims to shed light on the detrimental effects of such shutdowns on the fundamental rights of citizens and the overall development of the region.
Manipur, located in northeastern India, has witnessed several instances of internet shutdowns in recent years. These shutdowns are typically justified by the government under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or other relevant laws, citing reasons of public safety and security. The plea filed in the Supreme Court seeks to challenge the constitutionality of internet shutdowns in Manipur. It argues that such shutdowns infringe upon the fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution, including the right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to education, the right to conduct business, and the right to access information.
Under the topic “Implications for Internet Shutdowns in India,” the discussion will revolve around the broader consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision. It will explore the impact on digital rights, the establishment of a legal precedent, and the potential for a regulatory framework. The focus will be on how the decision will shape the future approach to internet shutdowns in India, ensuring a balance between security concerns and the protection of citizens’ fundamental rights in the digital realm.
Background of Manipur Internet Shutdowns
In recent years, Manipur, a state in northeastern India, has witnessed multiple instances of internet shutdowns. These shutdowns have been imposed by the government under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and other relevant laws. They are typically justified on the grounds of public safety and security concerns. The frequency and duration of these shutdowns have raised concerns about their impact on the lives of citizens and the development of the region.
Constitutional Validity of Internet Shutdowns
The plea filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of internet shutdowns in Manipur contends that these shutdowns infringe upon fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. It specifically highlights the violation of the right to freedom of speech and expression, emphasizing that the ability to express oneself and exchange ideas is curtailed during the shutdowns. The right to education is also affected, as students are unable to access online classes, study materials, and educational resources.
Furthermore, the plea argues that the right to conduct business is compromised during internet shutdowns, hindering economic activities, disrupting e-commerce operations, and impeding the overall growth and development of businesses in the region. It also stresses the importance of the right to access information, asserting that internet shutdowns restrict people’s ability to gather information, stay informed, and engage in public discourse.
The plea raises concerns about the proportionality and necessity of imposing internet shutdowns, contending that they should only be used in exceptional circumstances where there is a clear and imminent threat to public safety and security. It asserts that the government must justify the need for a shutdown based on compelling reasons and ensure that it is the least restrictive measure taken to address the situation.
By questioning the proportionality and necessity of internet shutdowns, the plea aims to establish that the constitutional rights of individuals should not be compromised in a blanket manner. It calls for a more nuanced and balanced approach that upholds fundamental rights while addressing legitimate security concerns.
Adverse Impact on Fundamental Rights
Internet shutdowns in Manipur have severe repercussions on various fundamental rights. For instance, they impede the freedom of speech and expression by limiting individuals’ ability to express themselves and access information. The shutdowns also disrupt education, hindering students’ access to online classes, study materials, and research resources. Additionally, businesses suffer due to disrupted e-commerce activities, and the shutdowns create obstacles for healthcare services by hampering communication channels.
Relief Sought in the Plea
The plea filed in the Supreme Court seeks specific relief to address the issue of internet shutdowns in Manipur. It requests the Court to declare that the frequent and prolonged internet shutdowns in the state are unconstitutional, highlighting the violation of fundamental rights.
Additionally, the plea urges the Court to establish clear and comprehensive guidelines for regulating the imposition of internet shutdowns. These guidelines should ensure that shutdowns are necessary, proportionate, and time-bound. By setting guidelines, the aim is to strike a balance between security concerns and the protection of fundamental rights, ensuring that any restrictions imposed on internet access are justified, temporary, and do not disproportionately infringe upon citizens’ rights.
The plea recognizes the need to address security concerns but argues that such measures should be implemented in a manner that respects the constitutional rights of individuals. It calls for a framework that provides clarity and accountability in the decision-making process for imposing internet shutdowns, preventing arbitrary and indefinite disruptions to internet services.
The relief sought in the plea reflects the importance of upholding the principles of constitutionalism and the rule of law. By seeking a declaration and guidelines, the plea aims to establish a framework that strikes a balance between the need for security and the protection of citizens’ fundamental rights, ensuring that internet shutdowns are only used as a last resort and are subject to clear and reasonable limitations.
Legal Grounds and Previous Judgments
The plea challenging the constitutionality of internet shutdowns in Manipur draws upon previous judgments of the Supreme Court that recognize the significance of the internet as a fundamental right and impose restrictions on arbitrary shutdowns. Here are a few notable case laws:
- Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India (2020): This landmark case addressed the constitutional validity of internet shutdowns in the region of Jammu and Kashmir. The Supreme Court held that the right to access the internet is protected under the umbrella of the right to freedom of speech and expression. The judgment emphasized that any restriction on internet access must adhere to the principles of proportionality and necessity.
- Foundation for Media Professionals v. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (2020): In this case, the Supreme Court reiterated that freedom of speech and expression also includes the right to access information through the Internet. The Court emphasized that any restriction on internet access must be based on valid grounds, be reasonable, and adhere to the principles of proportionality and necessity.
- Shayara Bano v. Union of India (2017): While not directly related to internet shutdowns, this case recognized the right to privacy as a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. The judgment emphasized the importance of individual autonomy and the protection of personal information, which can be relevant when assessing the impact of internet shutdowns on privacy rights.
These case laws form the legal grounds on which the plea argues against the constitutionality of internet shutdowns in Manipur. They emphasize the importance of the internet as a fundamental right and the need for any restrictions on internet access to be proportionate, necessary, and justified by valid grounds. The plea relies on these principles to assert that the frequent and prolonged internet shutdowns in Manipur violate the fundamental rights of citizens.
Significance of the Supreme Court’s Decision
The Supreme Court’s decision on this plea holds significant importance, as it will determine the legality and regulation of internet shutdowns not only in Manipur but also across India. The Court’s ruling will set a precedent for future cases and guide striking the balance between security concerns and protecting citizens’ fundamental rights.
Implications for Internet Shutdowns in India
The outcome of this case will have wider implications for internet shutdowns in India. It will influence the approach taken by the government in imposing such shutdowns and provide clarity on the constitutional limits and safeguards in place. The decision will shape the landscape of digital rights and freedom of expression in the country.
The plea challenging internet shutdowns in Manipur highlights the adverse impact of such measures on fundamental rights and the overall development of the region. It raises important questions about the constitutional validity and necessity of internet shutdowns, seeking relief and guidelines from the Supreme Court. The Court’s decision will have far-reaching consequences, shaping the future approach to internet shutdowns in India and ensuring the protection of citizens’ fundamental rights in the digital age.
- Aiman J. Chisti, Plea In Supreme Court Challenges Internet Shutdown In Manipur, LiveLaw, 6 June 2023, available at: https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/supreme-court-petition-challenge-internet-ban-manipur-constitutional-rights-230158
- Plea in Supreme Court challenges ‘mechanical’ internet blackout in Manipur, The Hindu, 5 June 2023, available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/plea-in-supreme-court-challenges-mechanical-internet-blackout-in-manipur/article66933640.ece
- Plea filed in Supreme Court against internet shutdown in violence-hit Manipur, The telegraph Online, 6 June 2023, available at: https://www.telegraphindia.com/north-east/plea-filed-in-supreme-court-against-internet-shutdown-in-violence-hit-manipur/cid/1942820