Gauhati High Court: A Division Bench of Manojit Bhuyan and Soumitra Saikia, JJ. allowed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking relaxation on the Mobile Internet Services suspended due to the prevailing protests in different parts of the State of Assam against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed on 11-12-2019 in the Indian Parliament.

In the instant PIL filed, the petitioner challenged the promulgation of notifications which prohibited the data services of all the mobile service providers for next 24 hours in ten districts of Assam under the provisions of Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph, 1885 read with the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017. The further notifications extended the prohibition to cover the entire state of Assam with the only relaxation on the Broadband Internet Services.

Counsel for the petitioner, K K Mahanta submitted that the suspension of the data services continued even after the conditions were being normal with only peaceful protests and demonstrations going on in the city. This brought about a disruption in the entire functioning of the city including the business sector and daily household chores.

Taking consideration of the above, the counsel further pleaded for the restoration of the services during the afternoon hours of the day beyond 3:00 p.m. or the hours being elongated if conditions permitted.

The Assistant Solicitor General of India, S.C. Keyal on behalf of the respondent contended that the notifications in their own provide justification for the suspension which made a refereder in their areas as protests may get intensified in the upcoming days.

In view of the situation stated above, the Court opined that law permits suspension in specific situations but when there is an apparent shift to a state of normalcy, the required services can be restored as per the needs of the citizens and accordingly gave an interim direction to the state respondents to do the same, unless the situations turn otherwise for which the state authority can take necessary steps. [Banashree Gogoi v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 5584, decided on 19-12-2019]

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