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‘If welfare scheme is there, should that scheme not be popularised’, asks Delhi HC on PIL challenging use of public servants, Army for ‘political propaganda’ | India News

File photo of the Delhi High Court. (Photo credit: PTI)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday, while observing that there should not be any objection to a government popularising its welfare schemes, sought a response of the Centre on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the alleged use of public servants and defence personnel by the Centre to spread “political propaganda” by the government showcasing its achievements in the last nine years.

The PIL alleges misuse of public servant, Army for political propaganda

A bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna, while hearing the plea filed by EAS Sarma and Jagdeep S Chhokar, questioned the petitioners about why a welfare scheme should not be popularised.

“If a welfare scheme is there, should that scheme not be popularised? There are always snaps of Chief Ministers or Prime Minister in advertisements,” the High Court said on the objection of the petitioners on use of the photographs of Prime Minister at selfie points.

What did the petitioners argue?

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who argued on behalf of the petitioners, submitted before the court that several selfie points were being installed by the government and civil servants and defence personnel were being used for promotion of government schemes and policies.

Bhushan argued that communications issued by the controller general of defence accounts on October 9 and the department of personnel and training on October 17 for publicising the development activities undertaken by the government during the last nine years amounted to “corrupt practice” under the Representation of the People Act which prohibits the use of public servants for the benefit of the ruling party in elections.

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“This is political propaganda of the government highlighting only achievement of the last nine years. It says nothing about the scheme. Exercise seems to be showing that government has conferred all kinds of benefits to people (but) it says nothing about the scheme. Unfortunate that public money is being used for government advertisement,” Bhushan argued before the court while objecting to the presence of photographs of the prime minster at these exercises.

What did the High Court say?

The High Court, while saying that political propaganda includes using the name of the political party in such exercises, observed that using the pictures of prime minister or chief minister was a norm and these pictures could be seen on top of advertisements, unless the model code of conduct was in force, as they become “poster boy” of the ruling party.

“Every person wants to be aware of the latest schemes…people are uninformed,” the court said and added “Miners were trapped in the tunnel In Uttarakhand…If Indian Army wants to popularise that (rescue work), I don’t think there is a problem. There is no political party. There has to be a connection,” it said.

What did the Centre say?

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, who represented the Centre opposed the PIL and said that “Government of India and party are different things. This is pure government, and for government, it is permissible. We will take instructions on nine years.”

The High Court, after hearing submissions, asked ASG Sharma to take instructions on publicising the work done in the last nine years and also asked the counsel for the Election Commission to seek instructions on the issue.

The matter would be further heard on January 5.



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