A week after the West Bengal government imposed an internet blackout in several districts of the State to allegedly prevent ‘mass cheating’ during the 10th Board Exams, the Calcutta High Court put a stay on the government order on Thursday (March 10).
A petition was filed before the Calcutta High Court by an activist named Ashlesh Biradar, challenging the order of the Mamata Banerjee government to suspend internet services in Coochbehar, Darjeeling, Birbhum, Jalpaiguri, Uttar Dinajpur, Malda and Murshidabad between March 7-16.
The matter came up for hearing before a 2-Judge Bench of Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj and Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava. The petitioner argued that the government order could not have been issued under Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) Section 144, which pertains to law and order.
BREAKING: #CalcuttaHighCourt Chief Justice bench stays #WestBengal Govt’s order to temporarily suspend internet services in 8 districts for #Madhyamik exams. Says rule under which order issued is for law & order not for checking mass cheating.— Sreyashi Dey (@SreyashiDey) March 10, 2022
He added that the government diktat violated the fundamental right to practice any occupation, as guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(g) of the Indian Constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court of India in the case of ‘Anuradha Bhasin V Union of India’.
The petitioner Ashlesh Biradar pointed out that the order by the West Bengal government violated the Right to Education under Article 21A, given that classes are held online amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.
While defending the stance of the Mamata Banerjee government on Wednesday (February 9), Advocate General SN Mookherjee had claimed that the government order was based on both CrPC Section 144 and Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017.
He has sought time from the Court until the meeting of a review committee is concluded with respect to the rules laid down by the 2017 law. On Thursday, the Court put a stay on the government order.
West Bengal government imposed internet blackout on March 3
Home and Hill Affairs Department of the Government of West Bengal had issued an order on March 3, 2022, wherein it stated that the internet services would be blocked in 7 districts in light of 10th Std Board exams.
The order stated, “Intelligence reports have been received that Internet transmissions and Voice over Internet Telephony may be used for unlawful activities in certain areas over the next few days. Examination of the information received gives reason to believe that such unlawful activities are likely to occur in the absence of preventive measures.”
In a first, #WestBengal Govt imposes Internet blackout in parts of Malda, Murshidabad, Uttar Dinajpur, Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, Birbhum & Darjeeling during #Madhyamik exams to prevent question paper leak. pic.twitter.com/wYZKiFDijf— Sreyashi Dey (@SreyashiDey) March 6, 2022
It further added, “No restriction is being imposed on voice calls and SMS and on newspapers, hence communication and dissemination of knowledge and information is not stopped in any way.”