Delhi L-G seeks recovery of Rs 97 cr AAP spent on political ads in garb of govt ads

New Delhi:  Delhi Lt Governor V.K. Saxena on Tuesday directed the Chief Secretary to recover Rs 97 crore spent by Aam Aadmi Party on political advertisements which it published as the government advertisements.

The L-G has directed Chief Secretary to implement the September 2016 order of the Supreme Court appointed Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA) and the pursuant order of Directorate of Information & Publicity (DIP), GNCTD, directing AAP to pay Rs 97, 14, 69, 137 plus interest, to the state exchequer, for political advertisements that it got published/telecast in the garb of government advertisements.

This, apart from being a gross case of misappropriation of Government funds for the benefit of a political party, also amounts to contempt of the Supreme and High Court, said LG Secretariat.

The Supreme Court in its order in 2015, while disposing a Writ Petition (Civil) of 2003, with regards to “restraining the Union of India and all State Governments from using public funds on Government advertisements which are primarily intended to project individual functionaries of the Government or a Political Party.. and laying down of appropriate guidelines by this Court..”, had postulated guidelines to regulate Government Advertising and eliminate unproductive expenditure.

Pursuant to this order, a three-Member Committee on CCRGA was constituted by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to regulate the content of Advertising and eliminate unproductive expenditure of Government Revenue.

The CCRGA, thereafter, in compliance of orders of the Delhi High Court, investigated the advertisements published by DIP, and issued orders dated September 2016, identifying specific advertisements published by GNCTD that were in stark violation of the guidelines set by the SC and directed the Directorate of Information & Publicity, GNCTD to quantify the amounts spent by it in such advertisements, and recover the same from the Aam Aadmi Party.

In compliance of the said order, the DIP, ascertained and quantified that an amount of Rs 97, 14, 69, 137 had been spent or booked on account of non-conforming advertisements that violated the Supreme Court order.

Of this, while payments amounting to Rs 42, 26, 81, 265 had already been released by DIP, Rs 54, 87, 87, 872 for advertisements published, were still pending disbursal.

Accordingly, DIP, vide letter dated March 2017, directed the AAP Convener to pay Rs 42, 26, 81, 265 to the State Exchequer immediately and directly pay the pending amount of Rs 54, 87, 87, 872 to the concerned advertising agencies/publication within 30 days.

However, even after lapse of five years and eight months, the AAP has not complied with this DIP order. This is serious, as public money, despite specific order, has not been deposited by the Party to the State Exchequer. Such defiance of a legitimate order, by a registered political party is not only contemptuous of the judiciary, but also does not augur well for the health of good governance, said the LG Secretariat.

The LG in his orders to Chief Secretary has also directed that all advertisements since September, 2016 also be referred to the CCRGA for vetting and ascertaining if they are in consonance with the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court.

He has also asked for the money that has been spent in functioning of the said illegal Committee to be recovered. He has additionally asked for Shabdarth – the public agency formed by the Kejriwal Government, currently manned by 35 individuals, out of the total sanctioned strength of 38 officials, to be manned by government servants, instead of private individuals.

The finances of Shabdarth ever since it came into being shall also be audited, he has directed.