No HC relief for FTII staff suspended for criticising govt, BJP

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Published on Sep 19, 2019 11:30 PM IST
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ByKanchan Chaudhari, Mumbai

The Bombay high court (HC) on Thursday refused to interfere with the suspension of a faculty member of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Indranil Bhattacharya.

Disciplinary proceedings were initiated against Bhattacharya for posting on Facebook messages criticising the Modi government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

A division bench of justice SC Dharmadhikari and justice GS Patel did not intervene, primarily in view of the fact that he had not been given a charge sheet and an inquiry officer, who will conduct disciplinary proceedings in two of the three charges against him, was yet to be appointed.

In his petition, Bhattacharya contended the vindictive action started after he lodged a complaint with the chief vigilance commissioner with regard to the functioning of the institute.

He was served three show-cause notices in May and June 2019, one of which specifically “charged” him with posting messages on Facebook, criticising the Centre and the party in power, BJP.

His counsel, advocate Sunil Sen, on Thursday pointed out that the Facebook account was private. The faculty member sought information under the Right to Information Act, seeking to know how the institute learned about his private posts.

Sen said the notices sought to curtail his fundamental freedom of speech and expression.

He alleged the government was encroaching upon his freedom by interfering with his private communication and intercepting it.

He further contended the notices were issued on the presumption that a government employee cannot criticise the policies and programmes of the government and its functionaries.

Sen urged the court to stay the suspension on the grounds that he would be deprived of salary. But the bench said he will continue to get subsistence allowance. It has, however, granted Bhattacharya liberty to apply for interim relief, once the charge sheet is served and inquiry officer is appointed.

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