The Delhi High Court today refused to restrain city government from airing publicity campaign and advertisements allegedly glorifying Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) by “wasting public funds”.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath, meanwhile, asked the Central government’s counsel to take instruction on what steps they have taken on the Supreme Court guidelines issued in its judgement in May this year.
“Get instruction on what steps you have taken on the guidelines of the Supreme Court. Centre shall take instruction on the issued raised in this petition then we will think about it (prayer raised in the PIL),” the bench said, adding that it will hear the matter on July 27.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Congress leader Ajay Maken, who sought direction to restrain the “Delhi government from airing its recent audio visual TV advertisement and also its recent advertisement”.
Maken, chief of the party unit in Delhi, also sought direction to restrain Delhi government from publishing the names of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in any of its current or future advertisements, that are allegedly in violation of the government Advertisement Guidelines, 2014.
The petition through advocate Vikas Singh also sought direction, “calling upon the Centre to constitute the three-member body, as envisaged in the government Advertisement Guidelines, 2014”.
To which, the court asked whether Centre has taken any steps to follow the guidelines.
The Centre’s counsel Anil Soni and Naginder Benipal said that he will take instruction on this issue and inform the bench.
Meanwhile, the counsel for Central government alleged that Kejriwal is targeting Centre and also defaming government’s image.
The petitioner said in his plea that the Centre has failed to put in place the said mechanism, the three-member body and taking advantage of the situation Delhi government is constantly violating the said guidelines by repeatedly airing politically motivated advertisement on TV, newspapers and radio from promoting the part (AAP) in power.
“Therefore, in absence of any compliance mechanism, the common man has become a mere spectator, while Delhi government is diverting public funds towards promotion of the ruling party and its leaders, though the same could have been used for several public welfare and development purposes,” the Congress leader said in his plea.
In his plea, Maken claimed that the AAP ad campaign – comprising radio, TV and print ads – violates the Governmental Advertising (Content Regulation) Guidelines, 2014, set by the Supreme Court.
“The AAP government had increased their ad budget in a decision taken on June 25. The figure of Rs 526 crore is 21 times more than the previous budgetary allocation of Rs 23.7 crore in the year 2014-15,” the plea added.
“This unprecedented expansion of Rs 500 crore in the publicity budget could have been well spent by Respondent No. 2 (Delhi Government) for building 100 schools (building cost of one school being Rs 5 crore approx.), purchasing 1,000 DTC buses (cost of one bus being Rs 50 lakh approx), building 10,000 flats for the EWS category (cost of 1 EWS category flat being Rs 5 Lakhs approx.) and other public welfare and development purposes,” the plea said.
The Congress leader also argued that via the “aggressive political PR campaign”, the AAP government is “misusing public funds”.
“Delhi government be restrained from wasting the funds of the public in such a careless and self centred manner,” the plea added.
The Supreme Court in its May 13, 2015 judgement had barred publication of photos of leaders in government advertisements except those of the President, Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India.