Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s decision to use his photograph in newspaper advertisements is tantamount to “an open contempt” of the Supreme Court’s ban on using pictures of CMs in government publicity, legal experts say.
Yadav’s photograph appeared recently in full-page newspaper advertisements highlighting an agreement to construct an international cricket stadium in Lucknow.
A Uttar Pradesh government ad with Akhilesh Yadav that appeared in a newspaper on Friday.
On May 13, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had said that only photographs of three dignitaries -- the President, Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India (CJI) -- should be allowed on government ads. The bench was hearing a petition filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan on behalf of an NGO, Common Cause.
Bhushan said on Saturday that he would bring matter to the court’s notice after the vacations.
“This is clearly in contempt of the Supreme Court’s order. It shows the unwillingness of several persons in the political class to abide by the Supreme Court verdict. They want to take unfair political advantage of their being in power,” Bhushan told HT.
Deepak Verma, a retired SC judge, too said Yadav’s action was in violation of the court directive.
“He (Yadav) can’t say he is not aware of that (SC) order, and if he is aware then his actions are contempt. He doesn’t fall in the categories of persons who can be on the ads as defined by SC,” he said. Others said that the apex court should take notice of the ads on its own volition.
"There are judges sitting during the court vacations... (they) can take suo moto notice. For their order to have some value, SC must take notice of contempt,” said retired Delhi High Court judge SN Dhingra.
The apex court had said the guidelines were framed to avoid misuse of public funds for plugging the ruling party and glorifying politicians.
Retired DHC judge RS Sodhi, however, opined that Yadav may have a legitimate defence to any issue of contempt of court.
“If the ad is against the spirit and intent of the SC order, then it is certainly contempt,” he said but added that notice of contempt is yet to be issued by SC.
“He (Yadav) has to be given time to explain his actions. If he can explain it, then SC will have to take a call if the ad is contempt of court, and to what extent,” Sodhi said.
The UP CM is not the only one to challenge this order, which, some say, could have the potential to impinge on the right of leaders to connect with their people and militate against India’s healthy federalism.
The Tamil Nadu government has already moved the Supreme Court for a review of the judgement.
The review petition said the SC verdict violated the constitutional right of equality before law. This is the first review petition filed by a state government and others are expected to follow suit.
Bhushan said he would challenge the review petition.