NEW DELHI: The Government of India’s committee on content regulation of government advertising has indicted the Delhi government for violating guidelines enlisted by Supreme Court in its order dated May 13, 2015. It was ruling on a complaint by Congress leader Ajay Maken against the Delhi government.
It has directed the state government to fix responsibility, take appropriate action against those responsible and recover the entire expenditure from the Aam Aadmi Party , arguing that it was the main beneficiary of these ads. The committee was chaired by former chief election commissioner B B Tandon and had the president of the News Broadcasters Association, Rajat Sharma, and ad man Piyush Pandey as members.
It concluded that the state government had violated the guidelines in six out of nine areas mentioned by Maken.The nine areas were outstation and national level ads; ads in newspapers allegedly designed as newspaper reports; false and misleading ads; largescale ads on anniversary of AAP government; ads for selfglorification and targeting of political opponents; ads against the media; ads mentioning the party in power by name; ads on issues outside the jurisdiction of the state government; and unequal distribution of ads to patronize select media houses.
It rejected the allegations pertaining to ads in the form of newspaper reports, ads on anniversary of govt, and unequal distribution of ads to media houses.
It, however, concluded that the guideline for “preventing arbitrary use of public funds for advertising by public authorities to project particular personalities, parties or governments without any attendant public interest” had been violated. It also upheld the charge of false and misleading ads.
The committee found that the guideline that “government advertising shall maintain political neutrality and avoid glorification of political personalities and projecting a positive impression of the party in power or a negative impression of parties critical of the government” had been violated. It found the AAP government’s ad rebutting a report on a TV channel to be “wasteful expenditure”.
The use of ` AAP’ in ads was seen as a clear violation of the order that “advertisement materials must not mention the party in government by name”. The ads on issues outside the jurisdiction of the state government, like on the Dadri lynching, were seen to be out of sync with the SC guideline that “the advertisement campaigns to be related to government responsibilities”.
The Supreme Court had stated in its judgment on compliance and enforcement that the three-member committee shall receive complaints of violations of its guidelines and recommend action. It had also stated that the heads of government departments and agencies shall be responsible for ensuring compliance and shall follow a procedure of certification of compliance before advertisements are released to the media.
The committee has directed the member-secretary to make copies of this order available to the LG and chief secretary for taking necessary action. It had received the complaint from Maken on May 10, 2016. It issued notices to the Delhi government for its comments on May 26 with reminders on June 13 and 23rd. The state government informed the committee that they were in the process of appointing their own panel for regulating the content of government advertisements.
However, the Delhi HC ordered on August 10 that Maken’s complaint would be decided by this committee as expeditiously as possible, preferably within six weeks.
Subsequently , the panel issued notice to the Delhi government on August 17, with a request to submit its response by August 23. Not having got any reply , it issued another notice on August 24, requesting the government to submit its comments by August 29, saying otherwise it would take an ex parte decision. The Delhi government finally submitted its comments on August 30.