SC notice on plea for using CM photos in government ads

New Delhi, Sep 14 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the central government and NGOs Common Cause and Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) on a plea by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Assam and West Bengal seeking the recall of its order prohibiting use of photographs of governors and chief ministers in advertisements issued by the government and its agencies.

A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, while issuing the notice, directed the hearing of the matter on October 13. Notice has also been issued to all the states thereby giving them an opportunity to place their views before the court.

The bench, after considering the matter in their chamber on September 9, had decided to hear it in the open court on Monday.

Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Assam and West Bengal are seeking the recall of the apex court’s May 13 order prohibiting the use of photographs of the governor, chief minister, ministers, and political leaders in advertisements issued by the government and its agencies.

Holding that the usage of photographs promoted a “personality cult”, the apex court had said: “Photographs, therefore, have the potential of developing the personality cult and the image of a one or a few individuals which is a direct antithesis of democratic functioning.”

It had however permitted the use of photographs of the president, prime minister, chief justice of India and departed leaders, including Father of the Nation in the advertisements issued by the government and its agencies.

Contesting the verdict, Tamil Nadu government, in its review petition, held that the judgment was against the federal structure of the country’s governance which gives parity between the central and the state governments.

Seeking the setting aside of the May 13 verdict, it contended that chief ministers and governors too were constitutional positions and enjoyed the executive equivalence in the matters of the state with the centre and thus their photographs could not be ruled out of the government advertisements issued by the state governments or its agencies.

Describing the verdict as a judicial intrusion into policy making domain of the executive, the state government had asserted that the party in power had the right to carry the chief minister’s photograph in a government ads focusing on the achievements of the government.

It said that the Prof. N.R. Madhava Nair Committee which was asked by the apex court to go onto the matter had recommended the publication of the photographs of the president and prime minister of the country and governor or chief minister of the state along with the advertisements.

The May 13 verdict had come on the petitions by NGOs Common Cause and the CPIL, which had sought directions to restrain the central and state governments from using public funds on government advertisements that were primarily intended to project individual functionaries of the government or the party in power.

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