In a significant decision, Commission has asked the Chief Secretary of Delhi and Union Cabinet Secretary to disclose their policy on usage of photos of political leaders on various kinds of advertisements issued by state at the cost of tax payer’s money under Section 4 of Right to Information Act.
Earlier Lokayuktha of Delhi have given recommendations for effective prevention of photo publicity of the political rulers. The Lokayuktha has found usage of photographs of Chief Minister of Delhi Smt Sheila Dixit and former Minister Shri Rajkumar Chouhana Government on Loan Application Forms of SC/ST/OBC Minority Finance and Development Corporation, which was sold at Rs 100 per application, being unusual and without any justification. They were intended to glorify and develop personality cult of the individuals.
Putting photos on such official forms is only to gain unfair political advantage over the rivals especially during the elections.
Policy on political publicity
The Lokayuktha has recommended issuance of an advisory by the President of India to the respondents to desist from printing their photographs on the application forms under the Dilli Swarojgar Yojna, efface or block the photographs if any printed on the existing forms prior to their use.
Supreme Court earlier had constituted a Committee consisting of Prof. (Dr.) N.R. Madhava Menon, former Director, National Judicial Academy, Bhopal, Mr. T.K. Viswanathan, former Secretary General, Lok Sabha and Mr. Ranjit Kumar, Senior Advocate to study and make recommendations on this serious issue.
This Committee has presented its report recommending that government advertisements in media must not have faces of ministers and leaders of ruling party. It recommended that government advertisements should avoid photographs of political leaders and if it was essential then it should be restricted to photographs of the President/PM or Governor/Chief Minister. It said that name or symbol of political party in power should not be mentioned in advertisements which should maintain political neutrality and for projecting positive impression of the party.
The Government of India and similarly the Governments of states have an obligation under Section 4 of Right to Information Act, to disclose on their own what their policy is and when they would start implementing it.
The RTI applicant wanted information about implementation about the steps taken by the Government to stop photo publicity of the political leaders, as indicted and recommended by Lok Ayukta.
The Commission directed the Union of India which now governs the Union Territory of Delhi, to disclose its policy on recommendations of Prof Madhava Menon Committee and Lokayuktha of Delhi regarding usage of photos of political leaders on various kinds of advertisements issued by state at the cost of tax payer’s money, in the best interests of democracy and proper representation to the people before they exercise their franchise. The decision can be downloaded from here!
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