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Delhi HC asks Centre to clear its stand on plea against use of public servants to highlight achievements of ruling govt

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the Central Government to clear its stand on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by former public servants and sought direction to declare that no ruling party at the centre or state can use, directly or indirectly, any public servant for any campaign or promotion that is intended for the benefit of the ruling party.
The petitioners, EAS Sarma (former Secretary in the Government of India) and Professor Jagdeep S. Chhokar (former Dean of IIM) sought quashing of the impugned letter, dated October 9, 2023, of the Controller General of Defence Accounts and the impugned Office Memorandum, dated October 17, 2023, issued by the Department of Personnel and Training and all other Office Memorandums and Letters of similar nature of using government/defence officers.
The plea claimed that it's a political propaganda and that these communications are for the benefit of the ruling party at the Centre, with the ultimate aim of winning the upcoming state elections and general elections of 2024.
It's also stated that on the petitioners' representations, the Election Commission of India sent a letter, dated October 26, 2023, to the Cabinet Secretary calling the government to not undertake the activities of the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra in the constituencies where the Model Code of Conduct is in force up to December 5, 2023, and reportedly, the Centre has decided to replace the name "rath prabharis" with "nodal officers," but the Yatra is still to continue across the country in the non-poll-bound states and even in the poll-bound states after the upcoming state elections.
The bench of Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna, after hearing the submissions made by Advocate Prashant Bhushan, observed that there is a large amount of ignorance in society nowadays. In every newspaper today, when there is no election code in force, there are photographs of CMs or the Prime Minister in each advertisement."
The bench listed the matter for January after Counsel representing the Centre Government sought time to take instructions.
The plea submitted that the CGDA's impugned letter and DOPT's impugned O.M. effectively direct the use of the officers of the government as well as of defence for canvassing for the ruling party in the upcoming state elections and in the next general elections of 2024, which is just a few months away.
Petitioner further submitted that the impugned OM, letter and all similar instructions are designed for a mala fide purpose, defeat public interest and strike at the very heart of democracy by distorting the level playing field for political parties and candidates for fighting the next general elections, thereby violating Article 21 as well as the basic structure of the Constitution.

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