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PM selfie points: No issue if govt schemes are promoted and not political party: Delhi HC

PM selfie points: No issue if govt schemes are promoted and not political party: Delhi HC

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday said that one cannot have a grievance with the government promoting its schemes as long as there is no political insignia involved and no political party was being promoted, reports Bar and Bench.

A division bench of acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora was hearing a public interest litigation challenging the use of public resources and civil servants for the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra, a campaign to showcase the achievements of the Union government over the last nine years.

The petition was filed by former Indian Administrative Service officer EAS Sarma and former dean of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, Jagdeep S Chhokar.

"The government is run by someone in power. The Prime Minister is an elected person holding a constitutional post. There is no denying that. He may be someone’s political rival but if this is being used for last mile connectivity of beneficial schemes, you [petitioners] cannot have a grievance with that,” the court said.

Sarma and Chhokar challenged a directive by the Controller General of Defence Accounts to departments such as the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Sainik School and National Cadet Corps to develop selfie points at prominent places to showcase the government’s work.

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On October 17, the Centre also issued a circular asking all ministries to nominate officers of the rank of joint secretaries, director and deputy secretary till the gram panchayat level in all of the country’s 765 districts to be deployed as “district rath prabharis [special officers]” as part of the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra between November 20 and January 25.

These officers would help “showcase/celebrate the [Bharatiya Janata Party government’s] achievements of the last nine years”.

On Friday, the counsel appearing for the petitioners told the court that the campaign does not only involve promoting the government’s schemes.

The counsel said that during the campaign, political leaders were giving speeches and referring to subjects such as the Ram Temple, the 2002 Gujarat riots and the abrogation of Article 370.

“Everything is political,” the petitioner’s counsel said. “It has nothing to do with the schemes. All these selfie points have placards of the Prime Minister and each one of these is costing Rs 6.5 lakh. Hundreds of bureaucrats and army offices have been deployed.”

However, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, representing the Centre, contended that the campaign was aimed at familiarising citizens with the government’s schemes and policies, The Hindu reported.

“Engagement in selfie system is a gift of technology and let’s make use of it,” he told the court. “The physical construct of selfie points enables people to engage effectively, thereby having a greater impact.”

He defended the installation of selfie points by the Army, arguing that this would “inspire young women to join the armed forces and tell people about steps towards self-reliance in defence as well as schemes like Agnipath.”

The court told the additional solicitor general to place on record two notes that he cited during his arguments. It also allowed the petitioners to file an additional affidavit, and posted the matter for further hearing on January 30.

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TAGS:Delhi High CourtIndia NewsPM selfie pointsGovt schemes
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