The state government on Monday transferred and issued a showcause notice to IAS officer Nidhi Choudhari, whose recent tweet on Mahatma Gandhi and his killer Nathuram Godse landed her in trouble.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis shunted the 2012-batch officer from the joint civic commissioner’s post in the Mumbai municipality to deputy secretary with the Water Supply and Sanitation department. Additionally, the CM-led General Administration Department (GAD) also invoked sections of the All India Service Conduct (AISC) Rules, 1968, directing her to show cause on why disciplinary action should not be taken against her.
“We have issued her a showcause notice and she has been transferred. On the basis of her reply (to the notice), further action will be taken,” said Fadnavis.
The action comes a day after the Opposition targeted the government over the matter. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar Sunday wrote to the CM demanding “exemplary action” against Choudhari. State Congress chief Ashok Chavan, too, had also targetted Fadnavis over the issue.
On May 17, Choudhari, while commenting on Gandhi on her personal Twitter handle, wrote, “What an exceptional celebration of the 150th birth anniversary (of Gandhi) is going on… High time, we remove his face from our currency, his statues from across the world, rename institutions/ roads named after him! That would be a real tribute from all of us! Thank U #Godse for 30.01.1948 (sic).”
When the tweet began doing the rounds, she deleted it on May 31, claiming that people had “misunderstood” it.
“I have deleted my tweet of 17.05.2019 w.r.t Gandhiji because some people misunderstood it. If only they had followed my timeline since 2011 they would’ve understood that I would NEVER even dream of insulting Gandhiji. I bow before him with deepest regard and will do till last breath (sic),” she tweeted.
On June 1, the NCP’s Jitendra Awhad was the first to demand her “immediate suspension” over the issue. “How can a serving bureaucrat disrespect and insult Gandhiji in this manner?” he asked.
While Choudhari has maintained that she was a “devout Gandhian” and that her tweet was a “sarcastic” response to those who were making objectionable remarks and comments against Gandhi on social media, the government initiated the action against her.
On the government’s showcause notice, Choudhari — currently on a family vacation in Sikkim — was firm that she had not violated any provision. “Section 6 requires an officer to make it clear that the views expressed are personal and not of the government. My Twitter profile clearly states so. Section 7 disallows making statements which are critical of the current and recent policies of the government. None of my tweets have been against the government or the constitution,” she said.
In 2017, the Fadnavis government has invoked the same sections against a senior bureaucrat for an article he wrote on government policies in the cooperative sector. Sources said he was let off with a reprimand.
Choudhari also continued to defend her tweet.
“People who do not understand Gandhi are vilifying him on social media. It was a sarcastic take on them,” she said. “I love writing and have been doing so since childhood. I won’t give up on it unless the government bring out a policy prohibiting it. It is my right to expression,” she added.