In an escalation of tense ties with the Congress government in Puducherry, Lt Governor Kiran Bedi on Friday cancelled the order of chief minister V Narayanasamy banning the use of social media for official communication.
Bedi, who was in Delhi for the past few days, posted a copy of her order on her personal Twitter handle declaring the government circular “null and void” with immediate effect on the ground that it was issued “in contravention of guidelines, rules and policies of the government”. “If Puducherry has to be a progressive Union Territory it cannot be retrograde in communications. Hence @CM_Puducherry’s order stands cancelled: @PMOIndia (sic),” she tweeted.
Narayanasamy had issued the circular even as Bedi was pushing with her plan to promote WhatsApp communication by officials.
The government circular dated 2 January had said the chief minister had directed all the officers, heads of departments and employees of government-owned undertakings to immediately desist from using the social media such as Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook. It had added that the servers of these multi-national companies were based outside the country. “Any foreign country can get access to these official communications and documents uploaded which is a violation of the Official Secrets Act and also against the guidelines issued by Union Information Technology Ministry,” it had said.
Describing the order as retrogade, Bedi said it is against the clear-cut policy of the Central Government. “How can the Chief Minister take away the power of communication? That is why I have declared it null and void.” “I have met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singhji, IT and Communication Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh and apprised them about the issue,” Bedi told PTI.
Bedi said Prasad also thinks it is a retrograde measure by the Chief Minister. “It is now up to the Centre to respond. I have left it to them. It is a major issue. How can a Chief Minister issue gag orders in times of open communication and free flow of ideas? “Government of India’s entire grievance redressal mechanism is based on open communication. So many ministries including the External Affairs Ministry is using social media so effectively,” she said.
She had recently created a WhatsApp group for exchange of information and details of implementation of various government schemes. An Officer on Special Duty at Raj Nivas is the administrator of the group. The government’s circular was seen as a counter to Bedi suspending a Puducherry Civil Service officer for posting an “obscene” video clip on the WhatsApp group.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission has stayed Bedi’s 30 December order suspending the Registrar of Cooperative Societies, AS Sivakumar, an official told PTI. Sivakumar was appointed by the EC as Electoral Registration Officer for three Assembly seats in Puducherry. Bedi in another round of tweets defended her order. “Why I cancelled CM Puducherry’s gag order. It takes us back to non technology days, not good for #properouspudducherry:” “With WhatsApp, I’m Trying To Ensure Common Man Gets Immediate Help”.