Published: 10th March 2022
Calcutta HC temporarily lifts internet ban during Class 10 Board exams. Here's all you need to know
The Home and Hill Affairs Department, West Bengal, in an order issued on March 3, stopped transmission of internet data-related messages from 11 am to 3:15 pm on March 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14 and 16
The Calcutta High Court, on March 10, imposed a stay order on the West Bengal government's order restricting internet connectivity at some blocks in the state during the ongoing Madhyamik (Class X) Board examinations. The state government had imposed an internet ban on various blocks of districts like Malda, Murshidabad, Uttar Dinajpur, Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Birbhum and Darjeeling. The court had also asked a review committee to come up with a report.
The two-judge Bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj observed that the order had been issued under Section 144 CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) and is not legally viable. Section 144 can be issued only by a district magistrate and not the Additional Chief Secretary, like in this case.
The Home and Hill Affairs Department, West Bengal, in an order issued on March 3, stopped transmission of internet data-related messages from 11 am to 3:15 pm on March 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14 and 16. But the judges pointed out that the notice nowhere mentions that this imposition is for the Madhyamik exam. It is just that the dates and timing of the restrictions coincide with those of the Madhyamik examinations in the state.
The notice said that the intelligence reports suggest there might be unlawful activities. "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 and examination of the information received gives reason to believe that such unlawful activities are likely to occur in the absence of preventive measures," said the notice from the Additional Chief Secretary's office. "The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of expression of Indian citizens but at the same time allows for reasonable restrictions on the same and 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," it added. As a result of the internet ban, the Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Shibpur, had to reschedule their exams as well.
According to an official of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, the move was necessitated in the wake of reports of the alleged leak of question papers from some examination centres in Malda and Murshidabad districts in 2019 and 2020. The first day of the exam this year, March 7, also saw reports of the paper being leaked. But the Madhyamik Board Chairman, Kalyanmay Gangopadhyay, said that the paper, which is being distributed or shared as the leaked paper, is fake.