Delhi HC seeks Centre’s stand on PIL against use of defence officers, civil servants for govt schemes promotion

New Delhi: Delhi High Court on Monday sought the stand of the Union government on a PIL challenging the deployment of defence officers and civil servants for showcasing the schemes and achievements of the ruling government over the last nine years.

Alleging political propaganda, the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by former civil servant EAS Sarma and President of the Association of Democratic Reforms, Jagdeep S Chhokar, questions the legality of such deployments.

The petitioners, represented by Advocate Prashant Bhushan, contest an order from the Controller General of Defence Accounts deploying defence officers at ‘selfie points’ to highlight the Ministry of Defence’s accomplishments.

Additionally, they challenge an Office Memorandum issued by the Union Government’s Department of Personnel and Training instructing the deployment of Joint Secretaries, Directors, and Deputy Secretaries as ‘District Rath Prabharis’ for showcasing achievements of the last nine years.

The petitioners seek a directive preventing any political party, at the Centre or state, from using public servants for campaigns or promotions benefiting the ruling party.

During the hearing on Monday, Bhushan argued that the use of defence officers and civil servants for political propaganda violates rules governing the conduct of government servants and constitutes a corrupt practice under the Representation of Peoples Act.

The court noted the societal need for awareness but stressed that such acts cannot be permitted during the model code of conduct.

The bench remarked that disseminating information about popular schemes might not violate the model code of conduct, and noted that the plea raised a broader issue and mentioned the routine use of photographs of leaders for promotion.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma opposed the plea, saying that the assumption that the Government of India is a political party is unfounded. He stressed the distinction between the government and political parties, pledging to provide detailed instructions.

The matter is scheduled for hearing next on January 5.



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