The Supreme Court on Friday refused urgent hearing on a plea by two Manipur residents against the repeated internet shutdowns in the state rocked by ethnic violence.
A vacation bench of justices Aniruddha Bose and Rajesh Bindal said the high court is already seized of a similar issue.
“The high court is hearing the matter. What’s the need to duplicate proceedings? Mention before the regular bench,” it said.
Advocate Shadan Farasat mentioned the matter before the bench seeking urgent hearing.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by Chongtham Victor Singh and Mayengbam James.
The plea said the shutdown was “grossly disproportionate” in its interference with the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression, and the right to carry on any trade or business using the constitutionally protected medium of the internet.
It said the measure has had a significant economic, humanitarian, social and psychological impact on both the petitioners and their families.
The petition contended that the residents of the state experienced feelings of “fear, anxiety, helplessness, and frustration” as a result of the shutdown, and have been unable to communicate with their loved ones or office colleagues.
“Continued suspension of the internet for the purpose of preventing rumour-mongering and the spread of misinformation does not pass the threshold prescribed by the Telecom Suspension Rules, 2017,” the plea said.
The Manipur government on Tuesday extended the ban on internet services till June 10.
The suspension of mobile data services, including broadband, has been extended till 3 pm of June 10, an order issued by Commissioner (Home) H Gyan Prakash had said. The ban was imposed on May 3.
Nearly 100 people have lost their lives and 310 others injured in the ethnic violence in Manipur. A total of 37,450 people are currently sheltered in 272 relief camps.
Clashes first broke out in the northeastern state on May 3 after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribes (ST) status.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals Nagas and Kukis constitute another 40 per cent of the population and reside in the hill districts.
Around 10,000 Army and Assam Rifles personnel have been deployed in the state to restore peace.