Regulators

SC agrees to hear review pleas against its order relating to pictures of politicians on govt. ads

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court will hear on 14 September a batch of petitions filed by various states seeking a review of the decision of the apex court relating to photos of politicians on government advertisements.

The Court had earlier given a direction on a public interest petition that only photographs of the Prime Minister, President and Chief Justice of India can be published in official media advertisements and not those of chief ministers. But the personal approval of these three authorities will be necessary before publication.

Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Prafulla C. Pant which had passed the original directions on 13 May said the review petitions will be heard in open court.

Prior to the order, the judges perused the petitions of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, and Assam in the chamber.

The four states filed the review petitions challenging the 13 May direction as being discriminatory and erroneous since it has permitted the photograph of the Prime Minister but not the chief ministers who too are elected representatives of the people.

The states pointed out that the expert panel had recommended display of photos of CMs/governors as well but the Court had restrained the states from displaying photos of CMs/governors.

The petitions said: “There is nothing wrong if the publication issued by the government highlighting the achievements of the government contains photographs of the chief minister and the other ministers if they have made contribution to the achievements of the state government. The judgment is completely silent regarding the exclusion of the chief minister who is the head of the state government. If the photograph of the Prime Minister is permitted on the publication/advertisement then the photographs of the chief minister must have also been permitted by this court.”

The May order had come on public interest litigations (PIL) filed by the NGOs Common Cause represented by counsel Meera Bhatia and the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan pleading it to frame guidelines.

Holding that taxpayers' money cannot be spent to build "personality cults" of political leaders, the Court had restrained ruling parties from publishing photographs of political leaders or prominent persons in government-funded advertisements.

The Court said such photos divert attention from the policies of the government, unnecessarily associate an individual with a government project, and pave the way for cultivating a "personality cult".

The observations of the Court were based on examination of the findings of a Committee led by Bangalore's National Law University Director N.S. Madhava Menon set up in May last year which had submitted its report in October.

The Committee was set up by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry pursuant to an order of 23 April last year. Other members were former Lok Sabha Secretary General T K Vishwanathan, and senior advocate Ranjit Kumar. Bimal Julka, Secretary in the Ministry, was the member Secretary of the Committee.  

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