Violation of guidelines, legal framework noticed
*Network can only be used for constructive purposes
JAMMU, Mar 24: Observing that Government servants often engage themselves with social media in contravention to rules, the Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has directed all the Administrative Secretaries, Deputy Commissioners, Heads of Departments and Managing Directors to immediately proceed against the employees indulging in unwarranted debates, discussions and sharing/commenting/posting inappropriate posts/content on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Instant Messaging applications like WhatsApp and Telegram etc.
The Jammu and Kashmir Employees Conduct Rules, 1971 clearly state that no Government employee shall, by any utterance, writing or otherwise discuss or criticize in public or in any meeting of any association or body any policy pursued or action taken by the Government nor shall he in any manner participate in any such discussion or criticism.
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Moreover, these Rules read: “No Government employee shall, in any radio broadcast or in any document published in his own name or anonymously, psuedonymously or in the name of any other person or in any communication to the press or in any public utterance make any statement of fact or opinion which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the Government of India, Government of Jammu and Kashmir or any other State Government.
Even the Information Technology Act, enacted in the year 2000, categorically makes users liable, should they post any incriminating or illegal content or material on social media. The law recognizes social media users as network service providers and, hence, intermediaries under the law.
Despite these elaborate guidelines and legal framework, it has been observed that Government servants in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir often engage themselves with social media in a manner which is in contravention to these rules.
“While using different social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Instant Messaging applications like WhatsApp, Telegram etc, employees have been seen to air disparaging views on subjects that they are expressly barred under rules to comment upon”, the Government said, adding “employees have been seen to comment or act or behave in a manner that does not conform to the acceptable standards of official conduct, as envisaged in the guidelines and the rules”.
“Such actions range from unauthorized communication of official information and/or dissemination of patently wrong or misleading information, airing of political or communal views etc under their real or assumed identities”, the Government said.
While taking serious note of this, the Government has enjoined upon all employees working in various Government departments, Public Sector Undertakings, Corporations, Boards and Autonomous Bodies to strictly adhere to the guidelines and legal principles and refrain from indulging in unwarranted debates/discussions and sharing/commenting/posting inappropriate posts/content on social media platforms.
“Violation of these guidelines/rules shall tantamount to misconduct and invite disciplinary action against the delinquent official under the relevant rules”, the Government has made it clear. It has also directed all the all Administrative Secretaries, Deputy Commissioners, Heads of Departments and Managing Directors to immediately proceed against the employees working in their departments/offices who are found to have violated the guidelines and rules, in terms of the relevant disciplinary framework.
Further, in case of a violation committed on a group platform, the ‘Administrator’, if they are serving Government/semi-Government employees, shall also be liable for disciplinary proceedings, the Government has further made it clear.
The Government has reiterated that employees, directly or indirectly, shall not publish, post or release any information on social media that is considered confidential or that is not meant for public dissemination, nor shall they pass any official document or any part thereof to any Government employee or any such person to whom he is not authorized to communicate such document or information.
Further, no Government employee can, through any post, tweet or otherwise, discuss or criticize on social media, any policy pursued or action taken by the Government, nor shall he/she, in any manner, participate in any such discussion or criticism on social media pages/communities/ microblogs.
Likewise, no Government employee shall post, tweet or share content that is political or anti-secular and communal in nature or subscribe to pages, communities or twitter handles and blogs of such nature and no Government employee shall himself/herself or through any person dependent on him/her for maintenance, or under his care or control, undertake any such activity on social media which is, or tends directly or indirectly to be, subversive of the Government.
“A Government employee may, for the purpose or removing misapprehensions, correcting mis-statements, and refuting disloyal and seditious propaganda, defend and explain to the public the policy of Government in his posts and tweets on social media”, the General Administration Department has mentioned in a circular, adding “Government employees shall not post on social media, any such content or comments about co-workers or individuals, that are vulgar, obscene, threatening, intimidating or that violate the conduct rules or employees”.
However, it has been clarified that these guidelines are not intended to dissuade employees and departments from using social media for positive and constructive purposes.