The J&K UT administration claims that its employees are violating its stringent social media policy; demands strict adherence.
THROUGH a circular issued on March 24, the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Union territory (UT) administration has reiterated the social media policy for government employees of the UT. “Despite the… elaborate guidelines and governing legal framework, it has been observed that government servants often engage themselves with social media in a manner which is in contravention to [the] rules.”
“Employees have been seen to air disparaging views on subjects that they are expressly barred under rules to comment upon,” the circular claims.
The circular, issued by the General Administration Department of the Civil Secretariat, J&K, directs government employees to “strictly” comply with the social media policy enacted by the erstwhile state administration through a government order dated December 12, 2017.
The 2017 social media policy prohibits employees from not only criticism, but also from discussing any policy pursued or action taken by the government. Besides employees, the policy bars their dependents or those under their care or control from undertaking any activity on social media that tends to be subversive of the government, directly or indirectly.
The said guidelines were originally enacted under Jammu and Kashmir Employees Conduct Rules, 1971 and apply to “every person appointed to a civil service or post in connection with the affairs of the State” and to corporate undertakings in J&K entirely financed by the government.
Additionally, no employee is permitted to “post, tweet or share content that is political or anti-secular and communal in nature or subscribe to pages, communities or Twitter handles and blogs of such nature.”
However, an employee may use social media for the purpose of “removing misapprehensions, correcting mis-statements, and refuting disloyal and seditious propaganda, defend and explain to the public the policy of the government.”
Similarly, the circular also clarifies that the above guidelines are not intended to dissuade employees/departments from using social media for “positive and constructive purposes.”
After quoting Article 19(2) of the Constitution to highlight the restrictions on freedom of speech and expression, the circular cites Rule 13(3) of the Conduct Rules which state: “No government employee shall, by any utterance, writing or otherwise discuss or criticise in public or in any meeting of any association or body any policy pursued or action taken by the government nor shall he in any manner participate in any such discussion or criticism.”
The non-adherence to the social media policy is liable to be penalised under Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1956, which prescribe the following possible penalties that may be imposed “for good and sufficient reason”:
(ii) fine not exceeding one month’s pay;
(iii) withholding of increments and/or promotion;
(iv) reduction to a lower post and/or a lower time-scale and/or to a lower stage in time-scale;
(v) recovery from pay of the whole or part of any pecuniary loss caused to Government by negligence or breach of orders;
(vi) Premature retirement on proportionate pension other than that specified in rule 226(2) of Jammu and Kashmir Civil Service Regulations.
(vii) removal from the service of the State which does not disqualify from future employment;
(viii) dismissal from the service of the State which ordinarily disqualifies from future employment.
The circular requires all administrative secretaries, deputy commissioners, heads of departments and managing directors to “immediately proceed against the employees working in their departments/offices who are found to have violated the aforesaid guidelines and rules, in terms of the relevant disciplinary framework.”