The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Central Government to submit in a sealed envelope the policy document banning army personnel from using social networking platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Lt. Col. P.K. Choudhary, an officer serving with the Indian Army and currently posted in Jammu & Kashmir, challenging the policy dated June 6 issued by the Director-General of Military Intelligence, to the extent it bans the petitioner and other members of Indian Army from using social networking platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
The ban, according to the petitioner, is a violation of Article 33 of the Constitution and also Section 21 of the Army Act, 1950, provisions of which cannot be nullified by executive order.
The petitioner further stated that he believed that such a ban violated fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to privacy.
The Additional Solicitor General (ASG) appearing for the Centre opposed the petition.
A bench of Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Asha Menon, however, noted that the counsels be heard after the bench has an occasion to peruse the policy and if the document prescribing the policy does not record the reasons therefor, the document containing the reasons for the policy.
The court also refused to grant any interim relief to the petitioner from the mandate of being required to delete any existing social media accounts latest by July 15.
“Till we have found reason to entertain the petition and have entertained the petition, the question of granting any such interim relief does not arise especially when the matter has the potential of concerning the safety and security of the country”, the court said.
Advocate Shivank Pratap Singh for the petitioner vehemently contended that till the next date of hearing, the petitioner be permitted to de-activate instead of deleting his Facebook account. It was contended that the deletion of the account will result in the permanent destruction of valuable data. The contention, however, did not find favour with the bench which refused to grant any interim relief to the petitioner from following the policy under challenge.
On June 29, the Government of India had also banned 59 mobile apps, which are ‘prejudicial’ to sovereignty and integrity of India, ‘defence of India’, ‘security’ of state and ‘public order’.