New Delhi: A Central government appointed Committee on Friday came down heavily on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi, saying it has been splurging exchequer's money on advertisements projecting the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines and asked the ruling party to reimburse it. The three-member committee, headed by former Chief Election Commissioner B. B. Tandon, had been constituted by the Information & Broadcast ministry on directions of the Supreme Court to address issues related to Content Regulation in Government Advertising.
The committee had received a complaint from Congress leader Ajay Maken accusing the AAP government in Delhi of splurging public money on advertisements. In its order issued on Friday, the Committee came to the conclusion that the Government of Delhi has violated guidelines issued by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in six of the nine areas listed by the complainant.
The violations include outstation advertisements, false/misleading advertisements, advertisements for self- glorification and to target political opponents, advertisements against media, advertisements mentioning the party in power by name and also advertisements issued on incidents occurring in other states.
In its order, the panel which also comprised adman Piyush Pandey and journalist Rajat Sharma, has said that the AAP should be made to reimburse the expenditure since the violation of the Supreme Court order of May 13, 2015, has taken place. The assessment of the expenditure should be made by the Delhi government, it said.
The panel has directed the Delhi Government to assess expenditure incurred by it in issuing advertisements outside the territory of Delhi on the occasion of various anniversaries (except those tender or appointment advertisements which are outside the purview of the Supreme Court laid guidelines in a judgement delivered in May 2015).
It has also directed that the Delhi government assess expenditure on those advertisements or advertorials in which the name of the AAP is mentioned, which publicized the views of the chief minister on incidents that took place in other States, and advertisements which targeted the opposition.
"The Committee further directs the Government of NCT of Delhi to get the entire expenditure so incurred on the above mentioned category of advertisements reimbursed to the State exchequer from the Aam Admi Party," the order of the Committee on Content Regulation of government advertisements has held.
The panel issued notice to the GNCT of Delhi on August 17 and then on 24the August, 2016 seeking its response after which the Kejriwal led government submitted its comments on August 33. In its order, the panel felt that a state government should not advertise outside its boundaries, but it should be for attracting investment, business, talent etc and the advertisements should be designed accordingly for the purpose and released for the specific target group.
It added that if some chief ministers think that they are very special and their policies are relevant to the entire country, in such cases their political parties should bear the expenditure of such publicity and not the Government.
The panel also upheld the charge of false and misleading advertisements against the AAP government. In two allegations in this regard — augmentation of bus fleet in the capital and Rs 350 crore saved in construction of elevated corridor — the panel has asked the Delhi government to verify the facts and take appropriate action.
On Maken's complaint related to large-scale ads on anniversary of party in power, the panel did not indict the Delhi government. Since the SC guidelines permit issue of advertisements highlighting completion of a fixed period of government's tenure like anniversaries, the Committee does not find any merit in the allegation, the panel said.
It also did not find merit in the complaint against the AAP government regarding publication of advertisements in the form of newspaper reports has violated the guidelines.