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‘Only for publicity’, Supreme Court to Prashant Bhushan on PIL against use of public servants for electoral gains

By LAWSTREET NEWS NETWORK      Nov 29, 2023      0 Comments
Only for publicity Supreme Court to Prashant Bhushan on PIL against use of public servants for electoral gains

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to entertain a PIL for quashing a letter issued by the Controller General of Defence Accounts and office memorandum of DoPT on use of public servants to showcase achievements of the government.

At the outset, a bench of Justices B R Gavai and Prashant Kumar Mishra told the advocate Prashant Bhushan that the court is not keen to entertain the plea.

Appearing for petitioners E A S Sarma and Jagdeep S Chhokar, Bhushan repeatedly pleaded the court to give him an opportunity to present his case, but the court did not allow him to open his arguments.

"Newspapers are filled with advertisements with what has been done by the government. It is done by the state government of different political parties and it is done by the central government of a political party…. Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra," the bench said.

Bhushan said even that is a misuse. "Here this is something more sinister," he contended.

However, the bench said that the Election Commission has taken care of it and during the Code of Conduct such a thing is not permissible.

Bhushan finally asked the court to allow him to move the high court.

The bench, in its order, said, “Allowed to withdraw with liberty to approach the jurisdictional high court”.

The PIL, jointly pursued by Sarma and Chhokar, sought quashing of the letter of October 9, 2023 of the Controller General of Defence Accounts of the Ministry of Defence “to Controllers of Defence Accounts of different regions on the subject: ‘Development of selfie-points to showcase good works done/being done in MoD’ requesting that all selfie points as per targets may be installed ‘immediately’, and that Action Taken Report may be forwarded to the said office ‘immediately’ for onward transmission to Ministry.”

“The aforesaid impugned letter, dated 09.10.2020, may be read in conjunction with a Ministry of Defence’s order, which directed soldiers on annual leave to spend time on promoting government schemes, making them ‘soldier-ambassadors’,” the plea said.

It also challenged the validity of the office memorandum of October 17, 2023 of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) of the Central government.

The DoPT decided “to deploy joint secretaries/directors/deputy secretaries of GOI as ‘district rath prabharis (Special Officers)’ for ‘showcasing/ celebration of achievements of the last nine years of GOI, through ‘Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra’, proposed to be organised across the country’ from November 20, 2023 to January 25, 2024.”

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