The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking the annulment of a letter issued by the Controller General of Defence Accounts and an office memorandum from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).
These documents aimed to utilize public servants to highlight government achievements.
A bench of Justices B R Gavai and Prashant Kumar Mishra acknowledged lawyer Prashant Bhushan’s submissions but expressed disinclination to proceed with what they referred to as a “publicity interest litigation.”
Bhushan argued that the ruling party allegedly intends to use public servants to promote its work for electoral benefits, emphasizing the seriousness of the matter. However, the bench dismissed the PIL as withdrawn, granting the petitioner the liberty to approach the high court.
The PIL, filed by EAS Sarma and Jagdeep S Chhokar, sought the invalidation of the Controller General of Defence Accounts’ October 9, 2023 letter instructing the establishment of “selfie-points” to showcase the Ministry of Defence’s accomplishments. The PIL also contested the DoPT’s October 17, 2023 office memorandum, which deployed government officials as ‘district rath prabharis’ for a nationwide campaign called ‘Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra’ from November 20, 2023, to January 25, 2024.
In addition to seeking the cancellation of the letter and memorandum, the PIL requested a declaration prohibiting any ruling party from using public servants, directly or indirectly, for campaigns or promotions benefiting the party.
The plea emphasized the need to uphold the fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, safeguarding civil services and the armed forces from being instrumentalized for political party election campaigns. The PIL argued that the government’s actions not only violate service rules but also disrupt free and fair elections, a crucial aspect of democracy.