Delhi HC Defers Hearing In Plea Seeking Direction To Enforce ‘Principle Of Political Neutrality’ Of Public Servants

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The plea has sought directions to initiate an inquiry against the public servants for violation of 'Principle of Neutrality' in their functioning and to constitute a committee to frame guidelines for them.

The Delhi High Court on Friday deferred hearing in a Public Interest Litigation plea stating that it needs some more research. The plea has sought directions to enforce the ‘Principle of Political Neutrality’ of public servants, which prohibits them from participating in political activities.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad was hearing the plea filed by one Sonali Tiwary through Advocate Aditya Raj which claimed that public servants are failing to perform their duties as defined in Section 21 (12) (a) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 2 (c) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Senior Advocate Sanjoy Ghose appearing for Tiwary referred to a few reports and requested the bench to issue notice on the matter. However, the bench deferred the hearing while listing the same on March 13, 2023.

It may be noted that earlier, Ghose had submitted that all political parties are doing this. "For example, someone is handling National Commission and then he is also the spokesperson of a party," he had said.

The plea stated that non-compliance with the principle of political neutrality is causing huge losses to the ‘public exchequer’ and propagating political party beliefs.

The plea has also sought direction to the Central government and Delhi government to remove those who have acted/are continuing to act in willful ignorance of the principle of neutrality and who hold any official position in a political party while working as a public servant.

It has further sought the constitution of a committee for framing guidelines for the appointment of persons holding official positions in political parties as public servants.

The plea alleged that persons holding official positions in political parties are appointed to government positions and continue to engage in political activities after such appointment, which is a direct violation of the ‘principle of neutrality' and also interferes with the performance of the public servant's public duty.

The petition also mentioned names of political party leaders belonging to the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) who have been appointed to government posts and despite that, they continue to engage in political activities.

Tiwary stated that such actions by public servants will erode public trust in public functionaries. Her plea also stated that public servants must demonstrate a sense of neutrality in their actions and not act as political party mouthpieces.

“The moot question that begs to be answered is why these public servants should be maintained out of the tax-payers money when in fact they have failed to uphold the sanctity of the public office and used the same for their own political gain and political agenda,” the plea stated.

Furthermore, the plea read that the persons occupying such venerated offices are expected to maintain neutrality and remain impartial in their decisions, and holding any kind of official position within a political party would negate the very purpose behind the neutrality of public servants.

It also stated that a public servant's political affiliation would result in widespread abuse of public office for the public servant's political gain and the undue benefit of the political party that appointed him.

“Such impartiality and neutrality are the cornerstones of the office of a government servant as well as a public servant, however, violation of that rule would create a cloud over the decision-making of the public servant”, the plea added.

“The concept of fundamental right of speech and expression and right to form association cannot be stretched to include within it - a right of public servants to express their political view publicly and in media and associate themselves to a specific political party”, the plea further read.

Case Title: Sonali Tiwary v. Union of India & Ors.