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Persolity cult

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  20 March 2016 12:00 AM GMT

The Supreme Court has allowed back photographs of Governors, Chief Ministers, State ministers as well as Union ministers in government advertisements, but the issue about persolity cult in democracy is unlikely to disappear soon. Last year, the apex court had held that ruling parties were misusing tax-payers money by publishing photographs of politicians in connection with government policies and schemes. This could create a persolity cult which was a ‘direct antithesis of democratic functioning’ and should not be allowed, the SC bench felt. Its ruling ended up permitting only photographs of the President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India to be published in government advertisements. This raised an outcry in states ruled by opposition and other parties, including Assam. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi criticized the ruling as ‘going against the spirit of federalism’, as did the chief ministers of West Bengal, Odisha, Kartaka, Tamil du, Uttar Pradesh and Chattisgarh seeking review of the May 13 judgment. They were joined by the Central government on October 27 last year, with the argument that Article 19 of the Constitution granting freedom of speech and expression — empowers the State and the citizens to ‘give and receive’ information, and this cannot be curtailed and regulated by the courts. The Attorney General pointed out that if only the Prime Minister’s photograph is allowed in government advertisements, it would also promote another persolity cult; since the PM is ‘first among the equals’ in his ministry, his ministerial colleagues should also get to enjoy the same right. While the bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and PC Ghose left the rest of the conditions and exceptions ‘as it is’ in the apex court’s modified order, there could yet be piquant situations as governments may have to choose between either the photographs of the Prime Minister/Chief Minister or the departmental minister concerned to ensure that only one picture of a political person from a government would find place in advertisements. This may not be much of a problem in a state like Tamil du where no minister would dare to put up his photograph in place of supreme leader Jayalalitha, but it is quite likely to trigger much ministerial heartburn in other states!

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