In a reply given in Rajya Sabha on 1 December 2016, the Central Government has informed that no permission was given to Reliance Jio to use the picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in its advertisements at the time of launch of Reliance Jio services. Government also informed that permission is required under the provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, which is administered by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution. However, a perusal of relevant provisions of the said Act shows that a violation of the provisions of the said Act carries a penalty of only ₹ 500, which is inconsequential for a company of the size of Reliance Industries Ltd., which owns Reliance Jio.
Question No. 1832 was asked in Rajya Sabha by Shri Neeraj Shekhar, Samajwadi Party MP, which contained the following queries:
“Will the Minister of INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING be pleased to state:-
(a) whether Government is aware that Reliance Jio has used the picture of Prime Minister in full page advertisement in various news papers and on electronic channels while launching of Reliance Jio service, if so, the details thereof;
(b) whether PMO has permitted the Reliance Jio to use the picture of Prime Minister in the said advertisement;
(c) if so the details thereof and the law which permits Prime Minister to become brand ambassador of a private company; and
(d) if not, the details of action PMO has taken in this regard?”
This question was answered by the Minister of State in The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Col. Rajyavardhan Rathore (Retd.), as under:
“(a) Yes Sir. However, Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), a media unit of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, is the nodal agency in Government of India for release of advertisements on policies and programmes of the Government in various media vehicles. In other words, DAVP releases Government advertisements only and does not release advertisements of any private body.
(b) to (d): No permission was granted by Prime Minister’s Office. The Act, ‘The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950’ is administered by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.”
Now, it is pertinent to point out that Section 3 of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, prohibits improper use of certain emblems and names, by laying down as under:
“3. Prohibition of improper use of certain emblems and names.—Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, no person shall, except in such cases and under such conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government, use, or continue to use, for the purpose of any trade, business, calling or profession, or in the title of any patent, or in any trade mark or design, any name or emblem specified in the Schedule or any colourable imitation thereof without the previous permission of the Central Government or of such officer of Government as may be authorized in this behalf by the Central Government.”
It is pertinent to point out that Item 9A in the Schedule has a reference to the “Prime Minister of India”, therefore, the improper use of the name or pictorial representation of the Prime Minister of India is also prohibited under Section 3 above:
“9A. The name or pictorial representation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj or Mahatma Gandhi or Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Shrimati Indira Gandhi, or the Prime Minister of India, except the pictorial use thereof on calendars where only the name of the manufacturers and printers of the calendars are given and the calendars are not used for advertising goods.”
A contravention of the above provision is punishable under Section 5 with a penalty of ₹ 500 only, as shown below:
“5. Penalty.—Any person who contravenes the provisions of section 3 shall be punishable with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees.”
Thus, if we go by the reply given by the Government in Parliament, Reliance Jio had not taken permission of the Government for publishing the pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in its advertisements at the time of launch of Reliance Jio services. However, if at all, a complaint is filed in this behalf, the penalty that can be imposed on Reliance Jio would only be ₹ 500. Remember, the above Act was enacted in 1950. At that time, ₹ 500 might have had some value, but in today’s circumstances, ₹ 500 penalty would have no meaning, specially for a company like Reliance.