RTI filed to know if PM Modi gave consent to Reliance Jio for using his image

It was a historic day for one of India’s biggest companies, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), when its chairman announced the launch of Reliance Jio service on Thursday.

The launch was met with much furore considering the company’s disruptive data-centric plans and pricing. Ambani took almost 60 minutes to talk about the Jio service, during which he also announced that it was an ‘effort to fulfil the Digital India dream of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’.

On Friday, the company took out full front-page ads in most leading newspapers and announced the launch of the service. Although doing that is well within its rights, one aspect of the ad has sparked controversy.

The Jio ad featured a gigantic image of the nation’s PM, something companies do when they sign a celebrity for endorsing their brand. A full page ad paid for by a corporation and featuring Narendra Modi didn’t go down well with netizens, who took to social media to question the movie and seek information about about its ‘legality’.

To answer, the Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950, states, “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 authorised in this behalf by the Central Government.”

Which gives rise to the question about whether the company sought permission from the PM, and if it did, on what grounds was it given. To get this information, Nishant Gambhir, a lawyer and activist, filed an RTI with the PM’s office and asked the following questions:

1- Was any permission sought by Reliance Jio for using the photo of the Prime Minister in their advertisement.
2- If permission was sought,please share the request letter and the permission letter.
3- What are the existing guidelines for using the photo of Prime Minister in commercial advertisements.Please attach a copy of the guidelines.
4- Is Shri Narendra Modi the brand ambassador/endorser of Reliance Jio.

Incidentally, a Pune-based real estate developer by the name of Maple Group had been forced to apologize to both PM Modi and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis earlier this year, when one of their ads carried their pictures without seeking prior permission.

Despite the outrage from citizens and Modi detractors, the PM’s office has not issued any official response addressing his picture in Jio’s ad.

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