The Manipur High Court has now directed the State government to consider opening mobile internet in the State by whitelisting devices on a case-to-case basis gradually.
The direction came after the Manipur government submitted that the physical trial ordered by the High Court earlier had shown “there is no data leakage to any other numbers which are not whitelisted” through this method. In the order dated August 10, the high court also noted that the government had taken steps to implement its earlier directions of resuming Internet Lease Line (ILL) and Fibre to the home (FTTH) connections gradually on a case to case basis and with restrictions.
After the High Court had instructed the reopening of ILL connections on July 7, the Manipur government had on July 25 issued the first order putting out how they would be proceeding with this. Following this, the government submitted that it had issued another order on August 7, addressing the representations of the petitioners.
The High Court, in the August 10 order noted that a report was also submitted by the authorities on the physical trials held for mobile device whitelisting. The state government said that the trials had shown that there is no data leakage to any other numbers which are not whitelisted.
Citing this finding, the petitioners sought directions that the state government resume mobile internet by whitelisting devices gradually. The state government submitted that it needed two weeks’ time to “devise certain measures/mechanism for whitelisting mobile phones and the liberty to consider whitelisting of mobile numbers on case to case basis and in a phase-wise manner”.
“We are of the considered view that the State authorities, specially, the Home Department should consider for devising mechanism/methods for providing internet services through mobile phones by whitelisting the mobile numbers on case to case basis and in a phase-wise manner,” the court said, further directing the authorities to submit a report on this aspect by August 31, the next date of hearing.
After the July 25 order of the State government, internet restrictions had started to lift in parts of Manipur, which had been under an internet shutdown for 85 days, since the ethnic conflict between the dominant Meitei people and Scheduled Tribe Kuki-Zomi people began on May 3.
Conditions imposed by the government for internet use include users ensuring that all social media applications and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services are deleted from the devices, changing the login ID and password for each system every day, and making Internet service providers (ISPs) take responsibility for securing undertakings from each of their users.
There are also conditions in the undertakings that subject users to “physical monitoring” by concerned authorities to check for violations, if any.
Moreover, while wired (broadband) connections had been allowed by the Manipur government for the time being, the specific condition that users must use a so-called ‘static’ IP address might still restrict access for many.
Static IP addresses are a scarce resource, generally only provided to businesses who get dedicated ‘leased line’ connections with higher prices and standards of service.