Government serves Paytm, Reliance Jio with a notice for using PM Narendra Modi’s photo in ads

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To increase the visibility of their business, Paytm and Reliance Jio Infocomm used Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photograph in their full-page newspaper advertisements. Both the companies have now been served with government notices to know whether they had taken prior permission for using the PM’s image on ads of their products, reports Times of India.

This development has been confirmed by an official from the ministry of consumer affairs, food, and public distribution. It has further also been corroborated by two other government officials. They are of the opinion that the two consumer-facing brands might face penalties for unlawfully using the image in the coming week.

The debate surrounding the usage of PM Narendra Modi’s image in product advertisements was first criticized back when Jio advertised its official launch in September. The telecom giant had then released a full-page to portray themselves as the largest 4G carrier, who’ll support the growing voice and data needs of individuals (which it reportedly has by garnering 70+ million users in under 6 months). It said that the company was furthering the government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative with the launch of their services.

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Then, a similar political debate was triggered when Paytm published a full-page advert commending PM Modi on his demonetisation drive. The company welcomed the decision with open hands and used the advertisement to urge people to start using its digital payment services.

The day after PM Modi’s demonetisation announcement, Paytm reported that their servers are running at 20X load and handling a massive amount of traffic and downloads. This led to a back-and-forth between Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Paytm CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma on Twitter. It even caused public interest litigation against those who had used the said images.

Additionally, for those unaware, the consumer affairs department has advised the ministry of information and broadcasting to sensitise the media on a ‘prior permission’ basis. This is specifically applicable for the commercial usage of certain emblems and names, which have been prohibited by The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950. The said 1950 Emblems and Names Act states,

No person shall, except in such cases and under such conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government use… for the purpose of any trade, business, calling or profession… 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 authorised in this behalf by the Central Government.

Certain high court and supreme court lawyers have expressed their stance on the same saying that the government is now waking up to the unauthorized usage of these emblems and images. These brands have been endorsing their products without prior permission because this adds value to their product. But, they might soon need to overcome unforeseeable repercussions.

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