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SCOI Report: SC to hear review petitions on its judgment restraining use of leaders' photographs in Government ads [UPDATE-1]

A Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Pinaki Chandra Ghose will today (9 September) hear as many as 9 review petitions including those from four state Governments against its judgmentrestraining use of public funds by Centre and States on Government advertisements. The state Governments seeking a review of the court’s judgment, as listed in the causelist are Karnataka, Assam, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

Update: The bench agreed to hear the case in the open court on Monday, September 14.  The order issued on 9 September is [http://courtnic.nic.in/supremecourt/temp/rc%201879-188115p.txt here].

The judgment led to widespread dissatisfaction as the court permitted the use of photographs of only the President, the Prime Minister, and the Chief Justice of India, while barring those of other leaders, in Government ads.

The Supreme Court is set to hear the review petitions, even as the same bench is seized of a contempt petitionmoved by the petitioner, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, against the Delhi and Tamil Nadu Governments for not complying with its judgment. The court had issued notice to the Central Government asking why it has not set up a three-member ombudsman, to oversee the issue of Government ads, as directed by it in that judgment.

The outcome of these review petitions will have a bearing on this contempt petition as well. During the proceedings of the main case, only the Central Government and Bihar Government opposed the submissions of the petitioner seeking restrictions on Government ads. The court did not give reasons why it did not consider the recommendation of the committee, which it had earlier set up, to permit the use of photographs of Governors and Chief Ministers in the Government ads.

The Central Government had contended that the word ‘arbitrariness’ which the petitioners had alleged in the issue of Government ads must be defined, and that the expression ‘political mileage’ used by the petitioners as the object of Government ads, was inappropriate.

In the many Government ads published after the judgment, the state Government sought to defeat the spirit of the judgment by not only publishing the photographs of leaders in some ads, but also glorifying their names, without carrying their photographs in some others.

The review petitions will be heard in chambers by the two judges at 1.30 p.m.

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