The day Mukesh Ambani launched the much awaited Reliance Jio 4G service which provides free 4G and other services free of cost till 31 March 2017, it got embroiled in a controversy. The controversy arose because of the first page advertisements of Reliance Jio with the picture of the Prime Minister of India in all the newspapers across the nation. The advertisement dedicated Jio to 1.2 Billion people of the country and the Prime Minister’s vision of Digital India. Here is the advertisement that appeared in all the newspapers.
Soon after the advertisements came in the news, questions were raised as how the Prime Minister of a country can endorse a private company and its product. As usual, baseless allegations of Modi-Ambani crony capitalism were made by opposition parties. Soon after, the Prime Minister Office (PMO) clarified that the Prime Minister has NOT endorsed the product and more importantly, the PMO never gave the permission of using Prime Minister’s photograph to Reliance.
Since the PMO never gave permission to Reliance to use the photograph of the Prime Minister, it is a violation of The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act 1950 which prohibits the improper usage of emblems and names for professional and commercial purposes. The act 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.”
According to the Act, “Any person who contravenes the provisions of Section 3 shall be punishable with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees”.
However, the Emblems and Names (prevention of improper use) Act 1950 is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution…and any action can only be taken if the Ministry of Consumer Affairs files a complaint against the accused (in this case, Reliance Jio). As per this law, Reliance Jio may end up paying a fine of Rs 500 !