Calcutta HC stays order on curbing net during exams – The Indian Express

Kolkata News

THE CALCUTTA High Court on Thursday imposed an interim stay on the state government’s order to suspend internet services in some areas of the state on the days of Madhyamik (class 10 state board) examinations.

The government’s order was challenged by the Internet Freedom Foundation of India (IFF) on the ground that such an order of suspension could not have been issued by the state under Section 144 CrPC.

On Wednesday, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj directed the state government to file an affidavit containing the relevant documents relied upon and also present before the court the decision taken by the Review Committee under Rule 2(6) of the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017.

On Thursday, Advocate General S.N Mookherjee apprised the Court that the Review Committee had concluded that it is satisfied that the impugned order has been issued in accordance with law for the maintenance of public order and to prevent prevent ‘incitement to an offence’.

The Bench observed that it appears that the impugned order had been issued under Section 144 CrPC and is thus not legally tenable as such an initial order can only be issued by the concerned District Magistrate and not the Additional Chief Secretary of the State government as has been done in the present case.

The court also pointed out that the impugned order does not mention that such suspension of internet services had been ordered in order to conduct the Madhyamik Board examinations in a free or fair manner and is thus devoid of proper reasoning.

The court noted that the report of the Review Committee does not disclose the ‘intelligence reports’ relied upon by the State government to order such an internet shutdown.

It was also observed that the state government can only seek recourse to the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017 in order to issue such an order suspending internet services if there exists any ‘public emergency’ or an issue concerning ‘public safety’. However, it was noted that no such case has been made out by the state government.

While staying the impugned order, the court however made it clear that this would not in any way prevent the state government from taking adequate measures to prevent cheating in the upcoming class 10 board exams.

The state government has been also ordered to file a detailed affidavit-in-opposition in 2 weeks and any reply thereto was ordered to be filed within 1 week. The court is slated to hear the matter next on April 6.

The state government on March 3, issued an order to temporarily suspend internet services for a few hours in some areas on the days of Madhyamik examinations, in an attempt to stop cheating. However, phone calls and SMS services will not be curbed anywhere.