Yet another setback might be on the cards for Aam Aadmi Party. A central committee constituted by the Centre has alleged that the party violated some of the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court last year on regulation the content of government advertising.
According to the committee, the Delhi government used the exchequer’s funds to promote Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, for which AAP has been asked to provide a reimbursement to the state. The alleged violations related to outstation ads, misleading ads, ads for self-glorification, ads against media, ads mentioning AAP by name, and ads about incidents in other states.
The committee created by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on April 26,2016 constituted of three members- journalist Rajat Sharma, advertising veteran Piyush Pandey and was headed by chief election commissioner B B Tandon. The 17-page conclusions drawn by the committee have been sent to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi the Chief Secretary of the Delhi government, registrar of Delhi High Court and Congress leader Ajay Maken, the complainant.
The committee had said that the Supreme Court judgment had “stated that the heads of government departments and agencies shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with these guidelines and shall follow a procedure of certification of compliance before advertisements are released to the media’’.
The committee concluded that since the Delhi government had allegedly violated the guidelines, “the only way it could be remedied is to make the political party, the main beneficiary in the process of violation, to pay for the expenditure incurred by the government”.
As per the committee, it had received a complaint against the AAP government from Maken on May 11, accusing it for violating the court’s guidelines in nine areas. The committee said it sent notices to the Delhi government for its comments on May 26, followed by reminders on June 13 and June 26. The Delhi government told the committee that it was “in the process of appointing” its ‘’own committee for regulating the content of the Government advertisements”, it said.
In its response, the Delhi government said that it had “taken an conscious decision to communicate the path-breaking accomplishments made in health, education, water supply, roads, etc., to not only the citizenry of Delhi but also the people across the country”. Denying that the ads were used for self-glorification, it said that Kejriwal as the Chief Minister is the “natural face or identity of the government”.
“This is no exception as the government communication strategy of every Indian state is represented by its Chief Minister and that of the nation by the Hon’ble Prime Minister,’’ it said.
When contacted, AAP Minister Kapil Mishra told The Indian Express: “I am not aware of what the report says but based on the charges made against us, all I can say is there should be the same rules for all state governments. Why is the Delhi government being singled out? Such politically motivated committees cannot pass judgments.”