The Central Government’s promotion for the showpiece initiative, Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav that marks the 75 years of Independence has led to questions being raised after inclusion of ads for the event with images of PM Narendra Modi was used even in emails sent to advocates by the Registry of the Supreme Court.
Advocates later confirmed media sources that the images were included as part of email signatures and said that this blurred the line separating the judiciary and the executive.
The Registry said in a statement that the National Informatics Centre (NIC) on Friday, “which provides the email services to the apex court, was directed to drop that image from the footer of the emails originating from the Supreme Court”.
“It was further directed to use the picture of the Supreme Court of India, instead. NIC has since complied with the directions…,” it said.
Right after a lawyer red-flagged the ads in a message on the WhatsApp group of the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association, the registry issued the statement.
The message from one of the lawyers who questioned this move wrote, “Sir, I have received this notice from the Registry with a snapshot of the Prime Minister. The same does not seem to be in order of the Supreme Court’s position as an independent organ and not a part of the government. Request you to kindly take up the same with the Hon’ble Chief Justice with a note of protest if you deem appropriate.”
The Advocates-on-Record association’s secretary Joseph Aristotle said further course of action will be planned after a formal complaint is received from lawyers.
When contacted by media person from The Indian Express, an NIC official said, “This script is used in all NIC platforms. Today, we have taken steps to remove this from the Supreme Court platform… a message related to Gandhi Jayanti was being used earlier.”
Hours later, the Registry issued its statement that reads, “Late last evening, it was brought to the notice of the Registry…that the official emails of the Supreme Court of India were carrying an image as footer, which has no connection whatsoever with the functioning of the judiciary.”
Asked about the ads in emails, Senior advocate Chander Uday Singh described them as “highly objectionable”. “The Supreme Court and all other courts of India are not government offices and not intended to be used as propaganda machinery of the government,” Singh said.
According to a report from The Indian Express, another advocate, who did not wish to be named, said: “The Supreme Court must not only be independent but must also be seen to be independent. In the minds of people, if the image of the judiciary being separate from the political executive is to be maintained, any such association must be avoided.”