In a sign of growing apprehension over online posts on social media by tax officials, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has in a strongly worded letter asked all its chief commissioners and director generals to rein in officials who are using social media platforms like Facebook to post content on official matters.
"Some officers are posting online comments relating to official matters on social networking sites such as Facebook, causing confusion and avoidable controversy among officers in different parts of the country," the letter said.
"All officers under your charge should be advised to refrain from posting online comments regarding official matters in the public domain in violation of conduct rules. Non-adherence to these instructions should be viewed seriously by the controlling officers."
Giving examples of such instances, the letter said that personal views were posted on a Supreme Court judgement on April 30, 2012 on a special leave petition filed by the CBEC, including adverse comments on the seniority list relied leading to confusion regarding the apex court judgement among officers across the country besides causing needless controversy over seniority issues.
In yet another incident, the details of an ongoing case on alleged evasion of central excise duty by a gutkha manufacturer were posted online by an officer who had also invited comments from fellow officers on the merits of the case.
"Discussing details of investigation on social networking sites and online comments on merits when adjudication or appellate proceedings may be underway, is completely unwarranted,” the CBEC said.
Similar strictures—official and unofficial--already exist for many governmental organs like the armed forces personnel, security and intelligence agency officials etc.
According to the Internet World Stat, about 3.8% of the Indian population or 4.5 crore Indians access Facebook, the highest in Asia.