The Supreme Court on Wednesday spelt out guidelines for the publication of government advertisements to curb the misuse of public funds for glorifying the politicians and elected officials and political mileage.
The apex court ruled that photographs of only three dignitaries namely the President, Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India (CJI) should be allowed on government ads published in newspapers and other media including the internet. But the court left it to the approval of these authorities whether their images should be carried on the ads. Calling it an “antithesis to democracy”, the bench noted that publishing such photos would pave way for cultivating a “personality cult” at the cost of public money and would unnecessarily associate an individual with a government projects or achievements thereby diverting attention from the policy of the government. A bench comprising of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N.V. Ramana was considering the PILs filed by NGOs Common Cause and Centre For Public Interests Litigation (CPIL) in 2003. It said that institutions need not be glorified but instead earn glory by contribution and work, adding that the objective of a government advertisement can be achieved even without a photograph accompanying it. The regulations will be in place till the government brings in a law on the matter.
The lawmakers and politicians often run full-page ads promoting programs using their own photos. The apex court said that it was the government’s ‘responsibility’ to ensure that the information necessary for the public to know about the policies and programs is disseminated while maintaining that the ad campaigns are fair, cost-effective and “not directed at promoting political interests of a party”. The Court said that a three-member body of ombudsmen would be constituted comprising of persons with ‘unimpeachable neutrality and impartiality’ to tackle the issues regarding the matter. These regulations are based on the recommendations of the Menon Committee headed by legal academician Professor N Madhava Menon, formed by the court last year to check government-funded ads. When Vajpayee’s first NDA government popularized the slogan 'India Shining’ for the 2004 general elections to gain back power, a group of campaigners had approached the judiciary pointing out the anti-democratic and the dangerous aspect of the move. The Supreme Court had then directed the Madhava Menon Committee to suggest clear guidelines regarding the content of government ads. Instead of accepting all the recommendations of the Committee, the court then, had incorporated its suggestions.
The court ruling is a huge blow to all the political leaders and government officials who are corrupt, has zero efficiency and no sense of personal integrity. It’s not wrong to give images of historic personalities like the Father of the nation in the adverts. But abusing public money for glorifying the images of the politicians using their photos in ads and deceiving the people ahead of the looming elections is unethical. Since crores are used up for the purpose, it would only empty the public exchequer. The advertisements should carry information in a proper format stressing on the content as well as the message it conveys. The democratic institutions should therefore be rectified if they continue to carry out such acts.