The Delhi High Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea challenging an order of the Indian Army which mandates the force personnel to delete their social media accounts. The division bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Justice Asha Menon rejected the petition filed by Lieutenant Colonel P K Choudhary.
The petitioner had challenged the June 6 policy which has ordered the Indian Army personnel to delete their accounts from Facebook, Instagram and 87 other applications. The order says either the personnel to abide by the mandate of the organization or put out his paper.
In the plea, the petitioner has sought a direction to the Director-General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) to withdraw the recent order. The petitioner, a serving senior army officer said in his petition that he is unable to connect with his family members who reside abroad, including his elder daughter.
The plea stated, “Facebook enables the petitioner to share knowledge and information on varied subjects, with his daughters, helping the petitioner to parent them even when he is posted in remote locations.”
The petition sought a direction to the Ministry of Defence to withdraw the order as to ensure that the fundamental rights of armed forces personnel are not abrogated, amended or modified by arbitrary executive action. It states that the June 6 order— calling it unconstitutional—is not backed by the mandate of law and offends the provisions of the Army Act and Rule and, is unconstitutional.
In the previous hearings, the petitioner lawyer urged the bench to allow the officer to retain his account. He urged that permanently deleting the account and erasing the data would amount to the violation of the right to privacy.
“Soldiers rely on social networking sites to address the various issues arising in their families while posted in the remote locations and often use the virtual connection to compensate for the physical distance existing between themselves and their families,” the petition stated.
The petition had accused the order as illegal, arbitrary, disproportionate and violates the fundamental rights of the soldiers. It also mentioned that the order questions the soldier’s freedom of speech and expression, the right to life and the right to privacy.
The division bench while pronouncing the order, observed, “In such a scenario, if the government, after complete assessment, has concluded that permitting the use of certain social networking websites by personnel of its defence forces is enabling the enemy countries to gain an edge, the Courts would be loath to interfere.”