Modifying its earlier order, the Supreme Court today said photos of Governors, Chief Ministers and cabinet ministers also can feature in advertisements by central and state governments published in print media and shown on electronic media to announce various schemes and greet the public on various occasions.
As per its May 13, 2015 order, the advertisements could only carry the photos of Prime Minister, President and the Chief Justice of India.
The earlier verdict was based on a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, whose lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Meera Bhatia sought strict rules to check those in power from using taxpayers' money to gain political mileage.
The modification of the order by a bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi came on review applications filed by the Centre, and some poll-bound states like West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. They had argued that it infringed “fundamental rights and federal structure”.
“Programmes and targets for the future as advertised carry the impression of being associated with particular individuals.
Photographs, therefore, have the potential of developing personality cult and the image of one or a few individuals which is a direct antithesis of democratic functioning”, the bench had said.
“One government advertisement or the other coinciding with some event or occasion is published practically every day. Publication of the photograph of an individual be a state or party functionary not only has the tendency of associating that particular individual with either the achievements sought to be highlighted or being the architect of the benefits in respect of which information is sought to be percolated”, the court had said in its May verdict.
WHAT AG ARGUED
While arguing the review plea, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who represented the Centre said publishing picture of only the PM would lead to personality cult which was against the very spirit of its judgment meant to curb the cult image of politicians.
"Ministers have become nameless and faceless. Only PM's face is shown in government advertisements. Each minister is as important as PM and there is no basis for allowing photos of only three persons. Why not the photographs of CM and ministers in the Centre and states? This is a democracy and creation of a personality cult would not augur well," Rohatgi told the bench.
Terming the SC verdict "akin to censorship imposed by the court", the AG said that a minister was responsible for work done by his ministry and he must be allowed to inform the people about his service as otherwise he would be thrown out in the next election.
He told the bench that the earlier judgement was against the federal structure as CM was as important in a state as the PM and a CM could not be restrained from telling people about the work done by the state government.
Read the order here.