Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Madras HC refuses to order removal of Jayalalithaa's portraits from govt offices

Portraits of unseated chief minister J Jayalalithaa will continue to adorn government offices and departments in Tamil Nadu, as the Madras high court on Tuesday refused to order their removal.

"We are not inclined to direct the authorities to display the portrait of the current chief minister alone and remove the one of erstwhile chief minister," said a division bench.

The matter relates to a PIL filed by advocate S Karunanidhi of Madurai, highlighting the fact that even after her conviction in a corruption case and removal from the office of chief minister, Jayalalithaa's portraits continued to adorn the walls of government offices, whereas the incumbent chief minister O Paneerselvam's pictures were not to be seen anywhere.

Pointing out that the state had rules to hang the portrait of any leader from the list of 12 personalities, the PIL-petitioner said the usual practice is to display the incumbent chief minister's portrait and remove former chief minister's portrait from government offices.

A bench of Justice V Dhanapalan and Justice V M Velumani dismissed the PIL saying, "Since the government has taken a policy matter as to portraits of which leaders and personalities to be displayed in government offices, which, in our opinion, is well within the domain of the government to take a decision, and particularly that of the past and present chief ministers, we see no reason to countenance the prayer of the petitioner...It is only for the government to take a decision as to the display of portraits of leaders and personalities, not for this court to direct the authorities to display portraits of only particular persons and remove others."

Petitioner's counsel Peter Ramesh Kumar told the court that by not removing a former chief minister's photo from government offices, the policy of the government had been violated.

Advocate-general A L Somayaji, however, said that there could not be any direction to the government on policy matters and the policy decision to display the portraits of national leaders and important personalities as to who should be and who should not be is within the domain of the government.

The decision on the portraits of eminent personalities was taken on June 4, 2006, he said, adding that the PIL was not at all maintainable.

However, while dismissing PIL, the bench asked the government to formulate a definite policy on displaying portraits of leaders and personalities so as to be followed uniformly to avoid any difficulties with government offices.

"The government may act in a manner as in the past, and there shall be uniformity in maintaining such a principled policy to have the portraits in government offices," the judges said.

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