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Kiran Bedi defies Puducherry CM Narayanasamy, overrules order banning social media

In an escalation of tense ties with the Congress government in Puducherry, lieutenant governor Kiran Bedi cancelled chief minister V Narayanasamy's order 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 officers, heads of departments and employees of government-owned undertakings to immediately desist from using social media such as Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook. It had added that the servers of these multi-national companies were based outside the country.

Puducherry lieutenant governor Kiran Bedi. Reuters

Puducherry lieutenant governor Kiran Bedi. Reuters

"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.

However, 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 added that 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.

In another round of tweets, Bedi defended her order. "Why I cancelled CM Puducherry's gag order. It takes us back to non technology days, not good for #properouspudducherry:"

Updated Date: Jan 05, 2017 22:19 PM

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