Even as the government has sent a notice to Jammu and Kashmir IAS officer Shah Faesal for posting a tweet in which he sarcastically criticised the rape culture prevalent in India, the IAS officer says he will continue tweeting because his tweets don't hurt anyone.
“I am a pro-democracy person who abhors violent hate speech, who stands for rights of all human beings, and who has complete faith in the judiciary. So I have no reason to stop myself from expressing,” Faesal told Outlook in an interview.
He said the issue is all about the freedom of speech of government employees, which is rarely talked about.
“Most of us believe that because government employees are under a contract with the government they should not speak, they should not be seen, they should not participate in the public debate over critical social issues and they should detach themselves completely from the moral questions of the time,” he said. “I see this problematic and I have always wanted a debate over this issue,” Faesal said.
He said times have changed since the conduct rules were first thought of and in an age when free speech has become the most fundamental entitlement of every individual and the most critical indicator of democracy, the rules need review.
“Last time action was taken against an IAS Officer for wearing sunglasses during the visit of a public functionary. This is not acceptable,” he said.
Shah Faesal, who is widely admired in J&K and also trolled a lot for his views, on April 22 tweeted, "Patriarchy + Population + Illiteracy + Alcohol + Porn + Technology + Anarchy = Rapistan."
The tweet didn’t go well with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Government of India.
Love letter from my boss for my sarcastic tweet against rape-culture in South Asia.— Shah Faesal (@shahfaesal) July 10, 2018
The Irony here is that service rules with a colonial spirit are invoked in a democratic India to stifle the freedom of conscience.
I'm sharing this to underscore the need for a rule change. pic.twitter.com/ssT8HIKhIK
Offended by the tweet, DoPT has forwarded a copy of communication along with enclosures in which several references have been made to the IAS officer's tweets saying the tweets are "primea facie in contravention of the extent provision of the All India Service (Conduct Rules) 1968, All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969." The General Administration Department (GAD) of the J&K Government following the communication from the DoPT has written the letter to the IAS officer.
“Whereas the DoPT, Government of India has requested the State Government to initiate action against you under provisions of All India Discipline and Appeal Rules 1968 and to intimate the action taken to the DoPT, Government of India. Whereas you have allegedly failed to maintain absolute honesty and integrity of your official duty and thus acted in a manner unbecoming of a public servant,” the GAD letter said. The GAD has sent screen shots of tweets to the young IAS officer who like few other officers of the state expresses his views on various issues.
“As an IAS Officer I have never felt that I am a slave of the government of the day. I get paid for the work I do. I haven't mortgaged my conscience for my monthly and none of us has, we may be speaking or not,” Faesal said.
“I will continue tweeting because my tweets don't hurt anyone, I am a pro-democracy person who abhors violent hate speech, who stands for rights of all human beings, and who has complete faith in the judiciary. So I have no reason to stop myself from expressing. The rules will have to adjust,” he said.
However, he said, he sees the notice as part of a normal HR management process of the government.
“The existing conduct rules are quite open-ended and just anything under the sky can be fitted under the broad category of 'behaviour unbecoming of a civil servant' or an 'action critical of the government policy'. So we can't blame anyone for issuing the memo,” Faesal told Outlook.