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TN, Centre challenge SC verdict on government ads

"Advertisements featuring one personality alone, like the PM, in a federal democracy is pernicious and may lead to personality cults"

Tamil Nadu joined forces with the Centre on Wednesday to >challenge the Supreme Court's logic that featuring photographs of politicians, except the Prime Minister, President and the Chief Justice of India, in government advertisements will lead to formation of “personality cults”.

Advertisements featuring one personality alone, like the Prime Minister, in a federal democracy is "pernicious" and may lead to personality cults, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, representing both the Centre and Tamil Nadu government, argued.

The States, including Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, are seeking a review of the Supreme Court judgment imposing a ban on photographs of politicians, including Chief Ministers, from appearing in government ads.

The judgment by a bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, however, had exempted the Prime Minister, President and Chief Justice of India from this ban.

"Why not Chief Minister?"

" >There is no difference between a Prime Minister and a Chief Minister in a federal structure. There is no basis for you saying that these three (PM, President and CJI) alone are exempted. There is no intrinsic difference between one minister or the other" Mr. Rohatgi submitted.

"So for five years of a government, you are saying use only the Prime Minister's face on the ads. Other ministers become faceless, nameless. Nobody else can be used in the ads. This will become pernicious and will lead to personality cult," Mr. Rohatgi argued.

Mr. Rohatgi said a picture has a far more visual impact than "cold-blooded written words" and is part of the fundamental right to information enshrined in Article 19 (1) of the Constitution.

"The idea of 'information' includes not only the written word but also pictures," Mr. Rohatgi said.

He said the face used in the advertisement is both a catalyst and medium to send across the public message from the government to the public.

"Advertising campaigns for polio, health policies, cultural events which bring the nation together need well-known faces so that people will be attracted to look at them. This Court should not have got into the sanctity of it (using photos in advertisements), but having done so, how can this court say only these three are exempted?" Mr. Rohatgi argued.

The AG said the Supreme Court should be open to correct its own errors.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 1:40:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/TN-Centre-challenge-SC-verdict-on-government-ads/article14145497.ece

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