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States seek review of ban on CMs’ photos in ads

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The Supreme Court sought the Centre’s response on pleas made by several State governments, including Tamil Nadu, to review its verdict banning the publication of photographs of Chief Ministers in government advertisements.

States Argument:

  • The States argued that they enjoy autonomy in a federal structure of governance, and so, if the court can allow the Prime Minister’s photographs to be published in government advertisements heralding new projects and welfare schemes, Chief Ministers too have every right to have their photos published.

Supreme Court’s ban on photos in ads:

  • The Supreme Court, in its May 13 judgment, had banned ruling parties from publishing photos of Chief Ministers, political leaders and politicians in government-funded advertisements, saying that it cannot allow them to use taxpayers’ money to build a “personality cult.”
  • The apex court said such photos divert attention from the policy of the government, unnecessarily associate an individual with a government project and pave the way for cultivating a “personality cult.”
  • Exception: The photos of only three constitutional authorities — Prime Minister, President and Chief Justice of India can be used in such ads.
  • But for that too, the personal approval of these three authorities need to be got before publication.
  • Later SC setup Madhava Menon Committee to look into this issue.

Madhava Menon Committee Recommendations:

  • The Supreme Court appointed high-powered committee headed by Professor NR Madhava Menon in 2014.
  • The committee in its report has framed guidelines to regulate expenditure and contents of advertisements paid out of tax payers’ money.
  • It has recommended that names and pictures of political parties and their office bearers like presidents should not be mentioned in government advertisements.
  • It supported its recommendation by stating that there had been misuse and abuse of public money on such advertisements.
  • However to keep politics away from such ads, it emphasized that only the pictures and names of the President, the Prime Minister, Governor and Chief Ministers should be published.
  • The committee also endorsed the suggestions of the Election Commission that there must be severe restrictions on such advertisements six months prior to election.
  • Recommended that a deadline should be fixed to prohibit their publication and the poll panel should be authorised for the purpose.
  • There should only be a single advertisement, preferably by Information and Broadcasting Ministry, in respect of commemorative advertisements, which are given on birth and death anniversary of an important personality.