MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, on Thursday, directed the Tamil Nadu government to ensure that the advertisements relating to the 44th Chess Olympiad, which is being held in Chennai, displayed photographs of the President and the Prime Minister.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice S Ananthi gave the direction following a petition filed by an advocate R Rajesh Kumar alleging that only Chief Minister MK Stalin's photographs were seen in the advertisements and promotions of the Olympiad, while the photographs of President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were not included.
Kumar submitted that the State government, which is hosting the event, has disregarded the judgment passed by the Supreme Court in 2015, which contains guidelines to be followed while publishing the photographs of the President and the Prime Minister in government advertisements. His counsel also demanded that the State government should apologise to the people for not complying with the SC judgment as the advertisements were done using public money.
However, Advocate General R Shunmugasundaram argued that the government never intended to exclude their photographs. When the groundwork for the Olympiad was being done, the Presidential elections were still ongoing and hence the President's photo could not be published, he said. He also added that the Prime Minister gave his consent to inaugurate the function only on July 22 and his photographs were incorporated in all the advertisements published after that.
But the Bench rejected the above reasons. Even after the announcement of the result of the Presidential elections, the advertisements were issued without the President's photograph. And the photograph of the PM was required to be published even if he could not have inaugurated the event, the Bench said.
"When our country is hosting an international event, it is the bounden duty of one and all to ensure that such a function is organised efficiently and we leave an indelible mark at the international level. It is more so when our country is known for its hospitality and efficiency. Thus, the image of the nation should be of foremost concern to everyone and such representation would be under the aegis of the President and Prime Minister, apart from the Chief Minister of the State, where the tournament is hosted."
Though the PM's photographs were being published in the advertisements now, the President's photograph still did not find a place in any of the advertisements, the Bench noted and directed the State to ensure that the photographs of both the President and the Prime Minister of India are published in all the advertisements—whether in print or electronic media, relating to the Chess Olympiad.
The State government should take care that the aforesaid SC judgment is strictly adhered to in future, the judges added. They further directed the district administration to ensure that no damage or destruction was caused to any of the advertisements published containing the photographs of the President and the Prime Minister, apart from the Chief Minister. If any such activities were reported, strict action should be taken, they added.
Concerning the counsel's demand for an apology, the judges said, "We find the realisation of the mistake by the organisers and the best way to seek apology is to respect the sentiments of the public and make the international event a grand success."