NEW DELHI: In a major relief to various states including poll-bound West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Assam, the Supreme Court today modified its earlier order and allowed photographs of Chief Ministers, Governors and ministers to be carried in public advertisments.
The court, in its verdict last year, had held that only President, Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India can feature in government advertisments, a decision which was later challenged by Centre and seven states.
"The exception carved out in paragraph 23 of ...judgment dated May 13, 2015 permitting publication of the photographs of the President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of the country, subject to the said authorities themselves deciding the question, is now extended to the Governors and the Chief Ministers of the States," a bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.
The bench also comprising Justice P C Ghose said, "In lieu of the photograph of the Prime Minister, the photograph of the Departmental (Cabinet) Minister/Minister In-charge of the concerned Ministry may be published, if so desired."
It said that similarly in the states, the photograph of the cabinet minister or minister in-charge in lieu of the photograph of the CM could be published, if so desired.
The bench, however, clarified that all other directions in the judgment of May, 2015 shall continue to "remain in force".
The verdict came on pleas by Centre and seven states including Karnataka, West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Chattisgarh which had sought review of the May 13, 2015 verdict of the apex court, saying it infringed fundamental rights and federal structure.
Earlier, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, had strongly favoured review of the verdict on various grounds including that if Prime Minister's photograph is allowed in the advertisements then the same right should be available to his cabinet colleagues as the PM is the "first among the equals".
He had also contended that if only Prime Minister's photograph is allowed in government advertisements then it can be said that it would promote "personality cult" which has been described as "an anti-thesis of democracy" by this court only.
The AG had also said that the Chief Ministers and their cabinet colleagues too should be allowed to feature in advertisements.