Whose portrait should be put up in the government buildings?
It is not common to walk into a government office and see a series of portraits of political leaders on the walls. The central government offices typically carry the photographs of Mahatma Gandhi, the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the current president or the prime minister. The state government offices may have the nicely framed pictures of the governors and the chief ministers. A fair amount of money is spent on putting up the portraits some of which are changed every five years. Some offices also have religious portraits on the walls, usually put up privately by the public servants.
An application was filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Tamil Nadu government to know with there are any rules regarding displaying the portraits of leaders at government offices and specifically, who are the persons whose portraits could be displayed?
It has been replied that that the pictures of the following could be displayed at the government offices:-
· Incumbent President, Prime Minister and chief minister and all former chief ministers, including Annadurai, K Kamaraj;
· Architect of the Constitution B R Ambedkar, poet Saint Thiruvalluvar, social reformer Thanthai Periyar,
· Freedom fighters C Rajagopalachari, U Muthuramalinga Thevar, V O Chidambaram and Quaid -e-Millath etc..Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi etc.
In 1989, the state government had issued an order which said that portraits of the current chief minister and former chief ministers could be kept at the government offices without spending money from the exchequer. However, it has been claimed by critics that public money is being regularly spent to display the pictures of the current / former chief ministers in the state.
Regarding the instructions, the reply referred to the order of the Madurai bench of the Madras high court which had asked the then advocate general, A Navaneethakrishnan, in 2011 to display the photographs of national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Saint Thiruvalluvar, B R Ambedkar and U Muthuramalinga Thevar at the government offices in the state which remains to be followed fully.
While it is the duty of the state to recognise the contributions of the leaders and freedom fighters, should the public money be spent on putting up their portraits? Is there a need to draw a line?