The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) today informed the Delhi High Court that advertising agencies have initiated recovery proceedings in civil court against it in connection with Rs 97 crore allegedly spent by its government on publicity. The party sought early hearing of its plea against the Lieutenant Governor’s order to recover from it the amounts spent by the Delhi government on political advertisements. Justice Vibhu Bakhru, however, declined to grant an early hearing. “We are not inclined to advance the hearing,” the court said. The AAP said that one of the advertising agencies has moved the trial court against it seeking recovery of over Rs 41 lakh. It said that summons have already been issued to it in the matter in which they have sought time to file their written statement. The next date of hearing before the trial court is December 4. The court is already hearing the AAP’s plea against a Centre-appointed panel’s report recommending that the ruling party be made to pay over Rs 97 crore that the Delhi government had spent on political advertisements. It has challenged the September 16, 2016 order of the Committee on Content Regulation of government advertising and its subsequent November 11, 2016 decision constituting the three-member committee. Earlier, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken opposed the AAP’s plea and questioned its maintainability, saying the Supreme Court had said anyone aggrieved with the actions of the committee, may approach the apex court directly.
The Congress leader’s counsel, Aman Panwar, also said that the AAP had approached the court with “unclean hands and the petition is liable to be dismissed with exemplary costs”. The party has challenged the report, based on which the LG had ordered the recovery of Rs 42 crore which the Delhi government had paid for the advertisements. The LG had also said that AAP would pay the outstanding amount of about Rs 55 crore, owed to advertising agencies. The party has challenged the LG’s order, the demand notice and the panel’s recommendation stating that these decisions had been taken without hearing it.
In its plea, the AAP has sought quashing of the demand notice issued on March 30 by the Delhi government’s Department of Information and Publicity on the LG’s direction. The LG had ordered the Chief Secretary of the Delhi government to recover the amount from the AAP within a month.
The committee, headed by former Chief Election Commissioner B B Tandon, in its report of September 16 last year, had held that the Delhi government had spent the exchequer’s money on advertisements projecting Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party in violation of the apex court guidelines of May 13, 2015.