Delhi high court on Tuesday declined the plea of the Army officer who challenged the Indian Army’s policy of banning armed forces officials from using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
The court said that he has to take the decision and asked him to delete his Facebook account and also declined to entertain the plea to keep his Facebook account in deactivated form. They said the policy to ban the use of social media platform was taken keeping in view the security of the nation.
The army has directed all its officers and soldiers to delete their Facebook and Instagram account as well as 89 apps from their mobiles phone by 15 July.
The officer, Lieutenant Colonel PK Chaudhary, approached the court on Monday against the order of the Director-General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) to withdraw its policy which ordered the army officials to delete their Facebook and Instagram accounts and also to remove various applications.
The division bench of Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Justice Asha Menon told the officer on Tuesday, “You please delete it. You can always create a new one. It cannot work like this. You are part of an organisation. You have to abide by its mandate.”
“If you are so dear to FB [Facebook], then put in your papers. See you have to make a choice; what do you want to do. You have other choices which are also irreversible.”- The bench further said.
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The bench also declined the interim relief and said that it found no reason to entertain the plea and “the question of granting any interim relief does not arise. Especially when the matter has the potential of concerning the safety and security of the country,” the court further said.
In his plea, LC Chaudhary, who was posted in Jammu and Kashmir said that he was an active user of Facebook and uses the platform to connect with his family and friends as most of them stay abroad, including his daughter.
In the petition, Chaudhary contended that once the account is deleted all his contacts will be lost and it is an irreversible process.
The petition also argues that this move, based on a policy prepared by the Centre on 6 June, violates his various fundamental rights under the Constitution, including the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to privacy.
The officer had also sought an interim relief to allow him to retain his Facebook account in deactivated form till the next date of hearing.
The officer’s lawyer Shivank Pratap Singh also repeatedly urged the bench to allow him to retain the account in deactivated form, saying forcing him to delete it and the data therein amounts to a violation of his right to privacy.
However, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma, who presented the centre opposed the plea and told the court, “The policy decision was taken as government found that Facebook was a bug. It was infiltrating as a cyber-warfare and there were so many instances of personnel being targeted”.
He also said, “The officer can use other platforms like, WhatsApp, Twitter and Skype to communicate with his family as these applications so far has not been banned”.
The court now will further hear the matter on July 21.