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'The law of the land shall prevail on social media sites'

August 08, 2014 14:36 IST

'Whatever is shared on social networking sites, will it not jeopardise the security of the nation at times?' K N Govindacharya, the right-wing ideologue who has filed a petition against the government's reliance on Facebook and Twitter, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

The Prime Minister on TwitterK N Govindacharya was a leading light of the Bharatiya Janata Party until he took on then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and was ousted from the BJP.

Still a part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, where he cut his ideological teeth, the right-wing ideologue startled many by filing a petition against the government's reliance on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

In this telephone interview with Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com, Govindacharya, below, right, discusses the reasons why he has taken on the government on this issue.

In your PIL before the Delhi high court you have maintained that the government is violating the Public Records Act by making use of social media Web sites that have their servers located abroad. Did you speak with the prime minister before filing this PIL?

This particular PIL is not particularly aimed at the Modi government.

The issue is important. As it is the present government (the PMO handle on Twitter) is the continuation of the previous government. This PIL was filed in 2012. So this PIL is not targeted at a particular regime.

But since the government is now led by the BJP, did you get a chance to speak with the prime minister about the PMO using Facebook and Twitter to propagate this government's policies?

It will be interesting to know as to when was the PM's (Twitter) account started. Then comes the next subject. Is it (the use of social media) violating the Public Records Act or not?

But the prime minister, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, would use social media to publicise his government's policies and actions...

It is unfair to trivialise this issue by viewing this in a partisan angle.

As I said, this PIL is not aimed at targetting any particular regime or Narendra Modiji. The issue is important.

Manmohan Singh's account was supposed to have been hacked and there were so many Twitter accounts. So we had approached the Election Commission to know which is the real ID of the PMO.

The issue which we have been addressing would not get sufficient justice by trivialising it along personal lines.

K N GovindacharyaWhat is your basic objection to the use of social media by the government machinery and functionaries irrespective of the government in power at the Centre?

First of all, the Public Records Act is being violated by the official Internet accounts of various ministries. Some ministers have personal IDs and as ministers they have their ministry's IDs too. That process should be investigated.

It is a fact that ministries have ID on which all the data, all the goings-on, all the to and fro travels, all the positions of this person is recorded and that is what Public Records mean. So Public Record without clear sanction and permission cannot be transferred or given to foreign countries (the data rests on foreign servers). That is the substance and spirit of the Public Records Act.

That is being violated (by the use of social media handles used by official government machinery). The law of the land shall prevail on social media sites too. And to enforce this is the duty of any government, including the present one.

In this context did you speak with the prime minister or any representative of the government about your objections to the use of social media by the government machinery?

I need not. Because my views and approach has been known to the government since 2012. Their representatives and advocates have come to court and put forth their positions also.

What's the government's view on your PIL?

First of all, one need to understand the dimensions of the issue. Second, social media agencies did not recognise the Indian law effecting machinery. They took the position that they are based in America, governed by American laws and have some company (servers) in Ireland. So they need not answer questions emanating from the Indian government or the customers (in India).

After great persuasion the court gave the directive that these agencies should appoint grievance redressal officials. But again some agencies cleverly thwarted the issue by appointing the grievance officials by giving their address in Ireland. So, again the law of the land did not prevail.

Do you look at use of social media and private e-mail ids by the government machinery as a threat to national security?

Naturally. Whatever happens or whatever is shared (on the social networking sites), even the location of the people who attend this media... will it not jeopardise the security (of the nation) at times?

Is it necessary to divulge all the movements and information to agencies without first ensuring if that is detrimental or not? Who knows?

One has to be cautious. That caution has been thrown to the wind and that is what I am objecting to.

Image: The Prime Minister on Twitter.

Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com