The Calcutta High Court has directed the West Bengal Government to withdraw Anti Citizenship Amendment Act publications from all Government portals and Facebook sites of government institutions and departments for the time being.
The Court passed this order in a writ petition which raised an issue whether State funds could have been spent to put across the view relating to the applicability or otherwise of a particular legislation in the State of West Bengal through different media and other sources utilizing public funds and public office?
Responding to the query made by the bench comprising of the Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee, the Government had submitted that the particular publication challenged in the writ petition has been withdrawn from circulation and is no more in circulation. In this regard, the bench said:
"We leave open the legal issue as to whether the State or the Government could issue such publications at State expense or using the government machinery for consideration in due course. Recording the submission, we hereby direct that the said publication be removed from all Government portals and facebook sites of government institutions and departments for the time being."
The petitioner had contended that the Chief Minister of the State of West Bengal was not eligible to comment on the enforcement of that Act, since it is among the constitutional duties of the Chief Minister of the State and the administrative head of the State to ensure enforcement of the Constitution and the laws within the State of West Bengal. On this issue, the bench had observed thus in its order dated 20th December 2019:
For the present, we do not deem it appropriate or necessary in the larger interest of the society that we address issues relating to fairness of certain statements allegedly made by certain persons. We are also of the view that issues relating to the fundamental right to freedom of expression under the Constitution and the entitlement to dissent could be expressed even while participating in governance are issues of larger ramification, which we would not touch upon for the time being
The Government also apprised the Court that all restrictions imposed on internet have been lifted throughout the entire State of West Bengal. In its order dated 20th December 2019, the bench had observed thus:
"Such restrictions cannot be continued for long periods unless every such extension of such prohibitory order finds support with requisite reasons of facts and materials generated from time to time.That being so, the requirement to continue with any such imposition of restrictions on the use of internet is a matter which the competent authorities have to decide based on given facts and circumstances at any point of time during which it may be required.
The Court also directed the Eastern Railway and South-Eastern Railway to place reports in the form of affidavits placing on record the actual details of loss caused to railway property and other damages incurred and also the measures were taken to prevent loss of railway property and to ensure free movement of trains and safety of passengers and goods. Such report will also contain clear statement as to the action taken and the action to be taken for recovery of loss caused for such damages to the railway property, the bench said posting the cases on 9th January, 2020.