NEW DELHI: A senior officer of the Indian Army approached the Delhi high court on Monday, challenging a new policy banning armed forces officials from using social networking platforms.
Lieutenant Colonel P K Choudhary, currently posted in Jammu & Kashmir, has said that he uses Facebook responsibly and needs it to connect with friends and family as most of them are settled abroad, including his elder daughter.
The petition, likely to come up for hearing on Tuesday, sought the court’s direction to the Director General of Military Intelligence to withdraw its June 6 policy to the extent that it orders all the members of the Army to delete their accounts from Facebook and Instagram and 87 other applications. The plea argues that the government, by its June 6 ban order, is violating “the fundamental rights of armed forces personnel” and urges the HC to ensure these “are not abrogated, amended or modified by arbitrary executive action, which is not backed by the mandate of law, offends the provisions of the Army Act and Rules made thereunder and is unconstitutional”.
Choudhary says he got to know through a July 9 news report about the Army’s order requiring him and other personnel to delete Facebook, Instagram and 87 other applications by July 15.
On July 10, he received a letter titled “Policy On Use Of Social Media Platforms And Mobile Phones In IA” issued by the Director General of Military Intelligence, banning the use of 89 applications and websites and directed deletion of the accounts, the plea said, adding that since the policy is classified as restricted, he is not reproducing any part of it in the petition.
The plea claimed that the provisions of the policy violate various fundamental rights of the petitioner under the Constitution, including the right to freedom of speech and expression and right to privacy.
It said soldiers serve in remote areas, extreme weather conditions, difficult terrain, with the lingering threat of an enemy attack at all times and the professional hazards are a direct cause of soldiers committing suicide and in some cases shooting at their fellow soldiers before taking their own lives.
“In a majority of cases, the precursor to such incidents is denial of leave to the soldier. The soldiers rely on social networking platforms like Facebook to address various issues arising in their families while posted in remote locations and often use the virtual connect to compensate for the physical distance existing between themselves and their families….Soldiers can view pictures, videos etc. of events such as weddings, birthdays and other events of cultural significance in real time or even at a later date as per their convenience and need. This is the beauty of social network platforms like Facebook. Therefore, the respondents (authorities) must wake up to the benefits that these websites/applications enable the use of these websites and applications for soldiers and put in place a mechanism to ensure its misuse,” the petition submits.
“It is submitted that no other professional army serving in a constitutional democracy has put such unreasonable and mindless restrictions on its soldiers. The respondent no. 2 has conveniently shifted its own burden and responsibility to regulate use of social networking platforms onto the soldiers, assuming that it has unfettered power to abrogate and restrict the fundamental rights of soldiers,”it adds.