Delhi High Court declines to grant relief to senior Army officer

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to grant interim relief to a senior Army officer, who challenged the Indian Army’s recent directive, banning the usage of social networking platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, saying the issue has the potential of concerning the safety and security of the country.

A Bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Justice Asha Menon declined to entertain the plea of Lieutenant Colonel P.K. Choudhary, who is currently serving in Jammu and Kashmir, to retain the account in deactivated form.

Losing contacts

Lt.-Col. Choudhary, during the brief hearing, argued that all the Facebook data related to his account, including contacts and friends list once deleted would be “irretrievably lost”.

Also read: Smartphones, Facebook banned at naval establishments, platforms

The Bench, however, said Lt.-Col. Choudhary could always create a new social media account later. It said the officer has to abide by the mandate of the organisation.

The Centre’s counsel argued that if the Army officer wanted to communicate with his family in the U.S., he had other forms of communication available.

In the petition, Lt.-Col. Choudhary said that the policy issued on June 6, 2020, which banned the usage of 89 applications and websites violated various fundamental rights under the Constitution, including the right to freedom of speech and expression and right to privacy.

Also read | Government bans 59 apps including China-based TikTok, WeChat

The policy mandates every serving Army man to also delete their respective accounts on the websites and applications. “The orders of banning use and deletion of soldier’s profiles and data from social networking websites is characteristic of authoritarian regimes and is against the democratic and constitutional foundation of India”, the plea stated.

“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, it said.

Security concerns

While the Director General of Military Intelligence cited security concerns and risk of data breach as the basis of imposing the restrictions, Lt.-Col. Choudhary argued that the purported concerns and risks were not limited to being applicable to only soldiers.

“There are several members of the civil administration and political class who possess information of a much higher level of sensitivity than a regular soldier and no restrictions apply to the said persons”, Lt.-Col. Choudhary, who is currently posted in Jammu and Kashmir, argued.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 11:58:43 AM |

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