Except the President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and departed leaders, photographs of other political leaders should not be used in government advertisements, the apex court ruled
In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday prohibited use of photographs of political leaders, including ministers, in advertisements issued by the government and its agencies, saying that it leads to promotion of personality cult.
The apex court bench, headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, in its judgment, however, permitted the use of photographs of the president, prime minister, Chief Justice of India and departed leaders, including Father of the Nation, in the advertisements issued by the government and its agencies.
The court said the use of photographs of an individual, leader or minister not only has a tendency to associate an individual with a project, but leads to a personality cult.
The court said this was a direct injustice to democracy.
All political parties in power, either at the centre or in the states, have been misusing public money for promoting their leaders' image, particularly during or before the elections. "It is indeed worrisome that political leaders and parties are building and marketing their 'brands' at the expense of the ordinary people. Therefore the SC judgment will be an important step in the direction of building accountability in the expenditure of the tax payers' money," says Dr Vipul Mudgal, director of Common Cause.
During 2003, a writ petition was filed amidst the media blitzkrieg of political advertising better remembered as "India Shining" campaign with the guidance from Common Cause founder HD Shourie.
Last year in October, a Supreme Court appointed High-Level Committee, in its report submitted before the apex court had said guidelines were required to stop taxpayers' money being used by government to give publicity to political personalities, parties or ministers garner political mileage.
Holding that there had been “misuse and abuse” of public money on such advertisements, the three-member committee headed by eminent academician Professor NR Madhava Menon has framed guidelines to regulate expenditure and contents of such advertisements paid out of tax payers’ money.
The committee, also comprising TK Viswanathan, former Secretary General of Lok Sabha and Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, had said that only photographs of the President and Prime Minister could be part of the government advertisements.
"Since it is the responsibility of government to safeguard the trust and confidence in the integrity and impartiality of public services and hence it should be the policy of government to use public funds in such a manner as to obtain maximum value of taxpayers' money," the report said.
The Committee had said, “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. An amount or budget for the public advertisements should be declared by each ministry and public sector undertaking and it should be audited by CAG.”