Ban on photos of politicians: MIDC gets around SC ban, releases ad with CM's photo

Aug 04, 2015, 12:52 IST | Dharmendra Jore

The State’s industrial body has skirted the SC directive banning the publication of political leaders’ photos by releasing an ad ostensibly to declare Maharashtra’s tie-up with General Motors which prominently features Fadnavis

In May, the Supreme Court came down heavily on governments in power across the country, by banning the publication of ads featuring Chief Ministers (among other political heavyweights, barring the PM and the President).

The MIDC advertisement under the ‘Magnetic Maharashtra’ campaign appeared in a section of the media on August 3 (Monday)
The MIDC advertisement under the ‘Magnetic Maharashtra’ campaign appeared in a section of the media on August 3 (Monday)

Now it looks like the Maharashtra government has found a way to skirt the Supreme Court directive banning the use of the Chief Minister’s photo in official media advertisements, with some help from the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC).

The State corporation has used a picture of the CM at a programme in which a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was inked with a multinational automobile major last week. MIDC Chief Executive Officer Bhushan Gagrani told mid-day, “There is no violation of the Supreme Court order because we have used a photo from an event.

It’s not a still photo (of the CM).” The MIDC advertisement under the ‘Magnetic Maharashtra’ campaign appeared in a section of the media on August 3 (Monday). It has a group picture of CM Devendra Fadnavis, Industry Minister Subhash Desai and the chief executive officer (CEO) of General Motors, Mary Barra, whose company has signed an MoU to invest Rs 6,400 crore in the state.

Wheels within wheels
The advertisement says that Maharashtra has consolidated its position as the leader of the automobile industry and continues to be a leader in attracting foreign direct investment. It also displays the official logos of all automobile sector companies, which have invested in Maharashtra.

In a judgement in May this year, the apex court had allowed the use of photographs of the President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice in the advertisements and barred the use of photos of other political leaders in the ruling parties across India.

The directive says that it cannot permit taxpayers’ money to be spent to publish photos in official material, which associates an individual with a government project and helps the ruling party in cultivating a “personality cult”. It asks the governments to seek the personal approval of the President, PM and CJI before publishing their pictures.

The judgment by a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana was based on recommendations made by the SC-appointed committee led by legal expert N S Madhava Menon on introducing checks on government-funded ads. The committee was formed in April 2014 on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Common Cause.

Top officials in Mantralaya said they were not sure whether the trend started by MIDC would continue. “We don’t know yet whether the MIDC advertisement defies the Supreme Court order. We need to understand its legal standing before going ahead with such advertisements in the future,” said a senior Mantralaya official on condition of anonymity.

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