A bench comprising Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Justice Asha Menon dismissed the petition filed by Lieutenant Colonel PK Choudhary, who said that he was finding it difficult to connect with his family which resides outside India without being able to access the social network.
The Army officer had sought permission to retain his Facebook account in a deactivated form till the court decided whether to entertain his petition after going through the Indian Army’s policy under challenge, according to PTI. However, the High Court refused to entertain the plea and while pronouncing the order, said, “Sorry we are dismissing. Thank you.”
Choudhary had submitted that he used Facebook “responsibly in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Indian Army from time to time”. He added that he had not shared any classified or sensitive information pertaining to his role and duties as an Indian Army officer over Facebook or any other social networking platform.
“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,” Choudhary’s plea stated.
The plea also contended that the ban violated various fundamental rights of a citizen guaranteed by the Constitution, including the right to freedom of speech and expression and right to privacy. It argued the power to modify fundamental rights of members of armed forces rests with Parliament alone.
Therefore, Choudhary had sought a withdrawal of the “draconian policy”. He had also sought a declaration that the Director General of Military Intelligence is not empowered under the Constitution or under any other law to modify, amend or abrogate the fundamental rights of the members of the armed forces.
Earlier on July 15, the Delhi High Court had asked the senior Army officer to either follow his organisation’s directive to all personnel to remove 89 mobile applications, or resign from service. The court said the Army’s directive was concerning the safety and security of the country.
The Army’s ban order covers a range of apps across domains such as messaging, content sharing, web browsers, video hosting, gaming, e-commerce, dating, anti-virus, news and music among others. Last month, India banned 59 mobile applications, including TikTok, which have Chinese links, as diplomatic relations between India and China plummeted after a violent clash on the Line of Actual Control.
There have been several cases of personnel being virtually honey-trapped on social media platforms, leading to risk of sharing of sensitive information.