HC bins order on FB hill links

Calcutta: Calcutta high court on Wednesday set aside a lower court order that had asked a central government nodal officer to instruct Facebook to block links to articles published by a Darjeeling newspaper.

The chief metropolitan magistrate's court in Calcutta had ordered the blocking of 11 links of Darjeeling Chronicles in June 2017.

The order was issued on a plea by the cyber crime department of Calcutta Police on the premise that the articles were "against national interest" and instigating "common people to wage war against the nation".

The police sought the embargo on the articles in the middle of the Gorkhaland agitation in the hills.

After blocking the links, the Facebook moved the high court challenging the lower court's order.

Justice Siddhartha Chatterjee said on Wednesday that if the state government wanted to block any Facebook posts in future, it would have to follow the rules - first, approach a state nodal officer, who would, in turn, refer to his central counterpart.

Moving the appeal, the counsels of Facebook, Siddharth Luthra and Souvik Mitter, asked whether the CMM court had powers to issue such an order merely on the basis of a general diary lodged by the police.

They also told the high court that central rules were not followed in the case and the state was yet to appoint a nodal officer to deal with social media posts.

Advocate general Kishore Dutta and public prosecutor Swasata Gopal Mukherjee argued that the police had to act as there was an attempt to instigate the people of the hills to wage a war against nation. They said the Bengal government had already appointed a nodal officer to look after matters related to posts or links in the social media.

After hearing both the sides, the judge on Wednesday set aside the lower court's order.

Some lawyers of the high Court, however, said strict adherence to the central rules was not possible in all cases. "Social media posts go viral in minutes... And the process of redress takes a long time, and by then, a lot of damage can be done," said advocate Ashim Ganguly.


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