A day after RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani unveiled his new telecom venture, full page advertisements of Jio, featuring a large photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, covered the front pages of several national newspapers on Friday.
Calling Modi’s “inspiring vision of a Digital India” a “life changing moment”, the advertisement claimed that “Jio is dedicated to realising our Prime Minister’s Digital India vision for 1.2 billion Indians”.
Reacting to the advertisement, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called Modi “Mr Reliance”, while the Congress asked Modi and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to explain whether Reliance had been allowed to carry his photograph in the advertisement.
In multiple tweets, Kejriwal, the Aam Aadmi Party chief, said, “PM of India openly endorses Reliance product… PM as Mr Reliance.”
Hours after Kejriwal’s swipe, the Congress, too, jumped in. “There are norms for using the Prime Minister’s photograph in any advertisement. What we know is that as ministers in the government we had to seek permission of the Prime Minister, or the PMO, for using his photograph in advertisements. Otherwise, we cannot use it,” senior Congress leader Ajay Maken said at the AICC media briefing.
He said the first question that arises is “whether Reliance has taken permission from the Prime Minister or PMO. And if Reliance was given permission, then will the Prime Minister and PMO give permission to, say, companies such as Cadbury or Amul or some toffee company in future to use his photographs in advertisements?”
Using the PM’s photograph without proper approval is prohibited under the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act of 1950. Under points 3 and 9-A, the law proscribes the use of such pictorial representation of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Chhatrapati Shivaji and the PM of the country “for the purposes of trade, business, calling or profession”. Point 9-A of the act allows such representation on calendars, though.
The Press Information Bureau had not received any request from Reliance to use the PM’s photograph, its Director General Frank Noronha told The Indian Express.
Emails sent to Reliance, asking if they had sought and received permission to use the PM’s photograph for their advertisement, did not evoke any response.