A slice of history Parliament doesn’t own: group photos of its members

Private Delhi studio has been taking the photos since Independence,holds rights

Written by Archna Shukla | New Delhi | Published: May 13, 2012 2:46 am

There is a photographic record of each person who was ever elected or nominated to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. But guess who holds the rights to what is a veritable treasure trove of India’s political history — a private studio based in Delhi.

A R Studio was first hired for the Parliament exercise of clicking a group photo of MPs at the culmination of every Lok Sabha’s term and Rajya Sabha MPs every two years as it happened to be the only studio in Delhi at the time equipped with a camera that could capture 500 people together at a time.

Sixty years later,the practice continues. So at a time when the Parliament Library is deluged with requests from organisations wanting to use group pictures of the country’s first-ever MPs,to mark the 60th anniversary of the country’s first Parliament falling tomorrow,it has been forced to decline with regret.

A R Studio is tasked not with just clicking the photos but also holds their negatives as well the rights to their commercial use. All that the Parliament Library has is an archive of these pictures.

It has no right to sell them or use them for any purpose other than for Parliament and its members. “We can provide copies of pictures such as the president administering oath to members or MPs entering or leaving Parliament,but we cannot provide a copy of the group picture as its copyright rests with a private studio,” a senior officer of the library admitted.

The Secretary General of the Parliament Library,T K Viswanathan,said he was not aware of the issue. “They (the Datts) have been doing this for a long time as they have had a special camera. I will have to look into who the copyrights rest with.”

G K Datt,the current proprietor of A R Studio,said his grandfather A R Datt,“the official photographer for the British”,had bought a “panoramic camera” from a British officer. “At that time,he was the only photographer in the capital to own this camera that could capture a large group of more than 500 people,” said Datt.

After Independence,A R Datt was reportedly asked by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to take a group picture of members of the first-ever Lok Sabha. The Datts have shot all the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha group photos ever since.

Playing down the issue of copyright,Datt said: “There is no formal contract… but since we have been shooting the pictures,we have kept the negatives. We do provide copies if requested.”

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