Open hearing of challenge to bar on CMs’ photos in ads

New Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) The Supreme Court will hold on September 14, an open court hearing on petitions by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Assam and West Bengal seeking recall of its order prohibiting the use of photographs of political leaders, including governors, chief ministers, and ministers, in advertisements issued by the government and its agencies.

A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose decided to hear the plea by the four state government in open court after considering their petitions for recall of May 13 verdict in their chamber.

Holding that the usage of photographs in the government advertisements promoted “personality cult”, the apex court had then 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 had said that judgment was against the federal structure of the country’ governance which gives parity between the centre and the states.

Seeking the setting aside of the May 13 verdict, the state government had 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 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 asserted that the party in power had the right to carry the chief minister’s photograph in ads focusing on the achievements of the government.

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

However, the apex court, while making exception in respect of president, prime minister and the chief justice of India, excluded chief ministers and governors.

The May 13 verdict had come on the petitions by two NGOs Common Cause and CPIL, which had sought directions to restrain the central and the 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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