Ahead of the Assembly polls in various states, the Supreme Court Friday lifted its restraint against publication of photographs of Chief Ministers, Governors and other ministers in central and state governments in public advertisements.
Allowing a clutch of review petitions moved by the Centre and seven states, a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and P C Ghose modified its May 2015 judgment, which had restricted the publication of photographs to President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India.
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“The exception carved out in paragraph 23 of…judgment dated May 13, 2015 permitting publication of the photographs of the President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of the country, subject to the said authorities themselves deciding the question, is now extended to the Governors and the Chief Ministers of the States,” stated the order.
It said that “in lieu of the photograph of the Prime Minister, the photograph of the Departmental (Cabinet) Minister/Minister In-charge of the Ministry concerned may be published, if so desired,” and similarly in the states, photographs of the cabinet minister or minister in-charge in lieu of the photograph of the CM could be published.
The order came on petitions filed by Centre and seven states, including Karnataka, West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Chattisgarh, which had sought review of the earlier verdict, saying it infringed fundamental rights and federal structure.
Earlier, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, had strongly favoured review of the verdict on various grounds, including that if the PM’s photograph is allowed in the advertisements, his cabinet colleagues should enjoy the same right since the PM is only the “first among the equals”.
He had also contended that if only the PM’s photograph is allowed in government advertisements, it can be said that it would promote “personality cult” which was described as “an anti-thesis of democracy” by the court in its 2015 judgment.