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HC Concern Over States Lacking Tools Against Social Media

Justice Debangshu Basak directed the Centre and the West Bengal government to file affidavits with regard to a criminal case over an alleged posting of objectionable materials on the social media and asked them to deal with the issues raised by the court in this connection

PTI

Updated:December 19, 2017, 11:35 AM IST
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HC Concern Over States Lacking Tools Against Social Media
HC Concern Over States Lacking Tools Against Social Media (Representative Image. Image: Reuters)
The Calcutta High Court today said it was "alarming" that the states did not have the tools to ensure compliance if Facebook or any other social media platform refused to provide information in connection with a criminal case. Justice Debangshu Basak directed the Centre and the West Bengal government to file affidavits with regard to a criminal case over an alleged posting of objectionable materials on the social media and asked them to deal with the issues raised by the court in this connection. He was hearing a petition on the state police's failure to proceed with a case under the Information Technology Act regarding the alleged posting of objectionable materials related to a woman on Facebook and the police filing a closure report, after failing to proceed with the investigation owing to a lack of evidence.

Special Public Prosecutor for the state Bivas Chatterjee submitted before the court that the Siliguri police, with whom the complaint was registered, had given three notices to Facebook, but was refused any information on all the occasions. Appearing in the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Kaushik Chanda submitted that in such cases, a state prosecuting agency could approach the central government's nodal agency for appropriate measures in accordance with law. To this, the court said law-and-order was a state subject and thus, the states should have some mechanism at their disposal to ensure that the social media platforms complied with their instructions regarding the requirement of information in connection with cases under the IT Act.

"The present case gives rise to an alarming situation," Justice Basak observed and said that if Facebook or some other social media platform refused to provide information, then the states appeared to have no tools to ensure compliance. Stating that the issue needed further consideration, the judge directed the Centre and the West Bengal government to file affidavits and deal with the issues raised by the court. The Centre and the state were directed to file their affidavits within two weeks after the winter vacation, while the petitioner in the instant case would file an affidavit-in-reply within another week of that. Following this, the matter would come up for hearing again, the court said. Justice Basak directed the Siliguri police to approach the central nodal agency for appropriate measures in connection with the case filed by the woman, a resident of the north Bengal town.

The woman had claimed in her police complaint that her estranged husband had posted some objectionable material about her on Facebook. After failing to elicit a response from Facebook with regard to the information sought over the account holder's identity, the police had filed a closure report before the lower court at Siliguri, Chatterjee said.


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