The State government on Wednesday told the Madras High Court that it is not mandatory to display the portraits of a host of personalities, including the President, Prime Minister, incumbent Chief Minister and past Chief Ministers in all government buildings. It said a 2006 Government Order (G.O.) uses the word ‘may’ and therefore it was up to the authorities concerned to display some of a long list of portraits mentioned in the G.O.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy closed a public interest litigation petition after recording the submissions made by Advocate General Vijay Narayan, on behalf of the State, that it might not be in public interest to make it mandatory for all of those portraits to be displayed in all government buildings. The judges observed that the officials should act in accordance with law on the issue.

The A-G told the court that there were 12 former Chief Ministers of the State and it would be virtually impossible to display the portraits of all of them in all government buildings. R. Jayakkumar, a Bharatiya Janata Party member from Cuddalore, had filed the case seeking a direction to the State government and the secretary to the Governor to ensure that the portraits of President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were displayed in all State government offices across the State.

The litigant complained that only the portraits of incumbent Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, former Chief Ministers and others were displayed in government offices and those of the President and the Prime Minister were neglected. He said that a Government Order issued way back in 1978 lists out the portraits that could be displayed in public offices and buildings and they include the portraits of the President and Prime Minister, apart from those of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Tiruvalluvar, C.N. Annadurai, C. Rajagopalachari and Thanthai Periyar.

Subsequently, another G.O. was issued in 1990, including the portraits of B.R. Ambedkar in the list and a 2006 G.O. added Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar, V.O. Chidambaranar, Quaid-e-Millath, Indira Gandhi, former Chief Ministers, incumbent Chief Minister and Tamil Annai to the list of personalities whose portraits could be displayed.

However, in practice, the portraits of the President and Prime Minister were absent in most of the public offices and buildings, the petitioner claimed. He also claimed to have presented a portrait of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17 to be displayed in Cuddalore Collectorate but alleged that it was not displayed.

Stating that States could not function without the assistance of the Centre in a federal structure, the petitioner argued that Tamil Nadu enjoys maximum financial assistance from the Centre and therefore, it must have the minimum obligation to display the portraits of the President and Prime Minister in all public offices and buildings.

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