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Telangana High Court sets aside punishment awarded to Army officer for using Messenger app in mobile phone

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The Telangana High Court has set aside the punishment of ‘severe reprimand’ awarded to an Army officer for using the Messenger application on his mobile phone, terming it as ‘clearly excessive’. 

The singe-judge Bench of Justice P Madhavi Devi further quashed the order, which cancelled the officer’s promotion. However, the High Court granted liberty to the authorities to proceed against the officer afresh, in accordance with the procedure under the Army Rules.

Noting that the punishment of severe reprimand issued to the officer may appear to be innocuous, the High Court observed that the same would have a drastic effect on his service.

It said the authorities must take a lenient view of the matter if they decide to proceed against the officer again.

The single-judge Bench passed the order on a petition filed by an officer, who had been awarded the punishment of severe reprimand after summary proceedings for violation of the Army’s social media policy.

As per the case, it was found that the officer had Zoom and Share-Chat applications installed on his mobile phone, which were not to be used. The petitioner was further found using the Messenger app. 

The counsel appearing for the officer apprised the High Court that such a punishment would have a cascading effect on the officer’s service. He not only lost his promotion, but he would also be retired immediately on completion of 28 years of service.

The Bench observed that though the officer was aware of the proceedings against him and although the procedure of the summary proceedings was followed initially, the final order of punishment was not passed in his presence, nor was it communicated to him.

Further, the order cancelling the officer’s promotion was not passed in accordance with the law since a notice ought to have been given to him.

The Bench directed the Army authorities to reconsider the matter, adding that another officer of the rank of Commanding Officer should conduct the proceedings if the authorities decided to consider the matter afresh.

(Case title: Subedar Radha Krishna Tiwary vs Union Of India)

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