The Centre Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to allow publication of photographs of Chief Ministers and also Union and state cabinet ministers in newspapers and other media to enable the governments to disseminate information effectively.
Seeking a review of the May 2015 verdict that had restricted publication of photographs in public advertisements to only the President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi contended that the courts had no jurisdiction to direct democratically elected governments as to whose pictures should be printed in the media.
“I say it respectfully that it was not within the jurisdiction of this court to issue directives of this nature. Publication of advertisements falls in the executive’s domain. It is a policy decision over which the courts cannot sit and examine. There is no question of violation of anybody’s fundamental rights and hence the governments are constitutionally empowered to take such decisions,” the AG told a bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
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He said the public had a right to know and these advertisements were a source of disseminating information. Rohatgi maintained that every penny that the government spends is approved by Parliament and also accounted for by the CAG.
Last year, the SC had prohibited publication of photographs of even Governors and CMs, calling it an “antithesis to democracy” to let political functionaries develop “personality cult” at the cost of public money. It had said that such publication had a tendency to associate individuals with social benefit schemes or achievements. But the central government, supported by a large number of state governments, later sought reconsideration of this judgment, pointing out the Chief Ministers were as important as Prime Minister in a federal democratic structure.
“Having photographs of only the Prime Minister would result in developing a personality cult – something which this court did not want to happen. What is the problem if apart from the PM, there is also a photograph of the concerned minister. The public must be able to associate a minister with the relevant area of work so that the minister can be thrown out in the next election if he has not done enough,” added Rohatgi. He said the apex court has corrected its “mistakes” in the past and the governments hoped it would happen this time too. The bench reserved its verdict on the review pleas of the Centre and seven states after hearing the day-long arguments.