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Farmers’ protest: 140 lawyers move Supreme Court seeking restoration of internet at protest sites

The lawyers have urged the Apex Court to take suo moto cognizance of the issue and restrain the Central Government from imposing further internet shutdowns at the protest sites and adjoining areas.

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A letter petition has been moved before the Supreme Court by a group of 140 lawyers seeking immediate restoration of internet at Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri, during the ongoing farmers protests.

In the letter petition, the lawyers alleged that the violence was perpetrated by local hoodlums. About 200 men claiming to be local residents barged into the protest site at Singhu Border to vacate the area and pelted stones, damaged properties, and attacked the protestors despite the presence of heavy security of the police.

The petition reads,

“The state of fear and absolute shock has aggravated and further intensified with the Home Ministry’s order of Internet shut down dated 29.01.2021 from 11pm 29.01.2021 till 11pm- 31.01.2021 (First Order of shutdown) which eventually got extended by the order dated 31.01.2021 bearing no. 22016/12/2019-CIS-IV, approved by Union Home Secretary and passed by Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, as Reference Letter bearing no. 3304/X-Spl. Cell from C.P. Delhi, in the exercise of powers conferred under Section 2(1) of Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Safety Rules, 2017 which states: ‘in interest of maintaining Public Safety and averting public emergency, it is necessary and expedient to order, the temporary suspension of Internet Services in the Areas of Singhu Border, Ghazipur and Tikri, and their adjoining areas in the NCT of Delhi”.

Similar petition moved today: Restore internet, water, power to protesting farmers, remove nails, cemented barricades, says plea in Supreme Court

It was stated that internet is a basic human right that aids the citizen in expressing their opinions on global platforms. The internet has a more extensive degree and is an unfilled jar into which individuals pour its substance in the light.

The letter plea by Advocates Sitwat Nabi said,

“the order issued by the MHA is bad in the eyes of law and will not hold water when put to test of ‘Wednesbury Principle’, i.e., Principle to test the Unreasonableness of the any legal document, which scratches the Fundamental Constitutional values. Since 29th January 2021, the protest sites have been heavily guarded by police where the entry has been completely blocked, the roads (public property) have been dug up, barricading has been increased to four layers on the main highway connecting Delhi with Haryana, heavy deployment of paramilitary forces adding up to the heavily charged environment,”

The plea further stated that the order issued by Ministry of Home Affairs suspending internet in border areas of Delhi where farmers are protesting is a gross misuse of power by the Central government and is causing disruption to individuals in exercising their fundamental rights under Article 19 (1) (a) as upheld in the Supreme Court judgment of Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, where the Supreme Court had observed, “access to the Internet is a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution, subject to some restrictions and said freedom of the press is a valuable and sacred right.”

Moreover, it was alleged in the Petition that the government has turned the protest sites especially the Delhi-Ghazipur border into a fortress where it seems like they are waging war against their own people. Embedding more than 2,000 iron nails, multi-layer metal barricades, cement walls, and heavily armed security officials- these cannot be considered as law and-order situations. This should be rather termed as fortification. These activities are depriving the protesting farmers of their basic human rights and are in gross violation of the Right to Life enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution. This is also setting a very wrong portrayal of India and putting our nation in a very bad light before the world.

Also Read: Privacy row: Delhi HC seeks Centre, WhatsApp response on another plea

The lawyers have thus urged the Apex Court to take suo motu cognizance of the issue and restrain the Central Government from imposing further internet shutdowns at the protest sites and adjoining areas.

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