The AAP has been issued a notice for recovery of Rs 163.62 crore for its political advertisements allegedly published in the garb of government advertisements, according to sources. The development comes nearly a month after Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena directed the chief secretary to recover Rs 97 crore from the AAP for political advertisements it published in the guise of government advertisements.
The recovery notice issued by the Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) also includes the interest on the amount and makes it mandatory for the ruling party in Delhi to pay the whole amount within 10 days, the sources said on Wednesday. “If the AAP convener fails to do so, all consequential legal action including attachment of the properties of the party shall be taken in time bound manner, as per the earlier order of the Delhi LG,” a source said. There was no immediate reaction from the Delhi government or the AAP.
Subsequent to the LG’s order issued last month, the DIP has served a notice to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal for recovery of Rs 163.62 crore for the political advertisements of AAP, published in the garb of government advertisements at the cost of public exchequer, the sources added. While Rs 99,31,10,053 (Rs 99.31 crore) is on account of the principal amount incurred on political advertisements till March 31, 2017, the remaining Rs. 64,30,78,212 (Rs 64.31 crore) is on account of penal interest on this amount.
The Delhi government’s Directorate of Audit has also deputed a special audit team for conducting an audit of all such political advertisements after March 31, 2017, the sources said. In 2016, the Delhi High Court had directed the Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA) to decide in the matter of complaints regarding political advertisements by AAP government.
The three-member CCRGA, in September 2016, directed that “the main purpose and objectives of the guidelines framed by the Supreme Court was to prevent misuse of government fund for the projection of image of the politician or the political party in power”. “Since the same has happened even after the Supreme Court judgment, the only way it could be rectified is to make the political party, the main beneficiary in the process of violation, pay for the expenditure incurred by the government,” it had said.
The committee had directed the Delhi government to get the entire expenditure incurred reimbursed to the state exchequer from the AAP. A review petition filed by the AAP government on September 22, 2016 before the CCRGA was dismissed. The scrutiny of records had revealed that tentatively an amount of about Rs 97.15 crore, assessed till 31.03.2017 was incurred on advertisements which may be classified into the category of violation of Supreme Court’s guidelines on the matter. The amount has been updated to Rs 106.42 crore after further assessments, the sources added.
According to records, out of Rs 106.42 crore, payment of Rs 99.31 crore has already been made to the concerned agencies by DIP and Rs 7.11 crore (approximately) is outstanding. The notice from DIP reads, “In view of the above, you are requested to reimburse Rs 99,31,10,053 to the State Exchequer immediately and Rs 7.11 crore (approximately) for the remaining advertisements whose payment has not been released so far by the government, should be paid directly to the concerned agencies in 10 days from the date of issue of this notice.” On December 20, when LG Saxena had directed the chief secretary to recover Rs 97 crore from the party for “political advertisements”, the party had said that he has no power to pass such orders.
AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj had termed the LG’s direction a “new love letter”. “The BJP is flustered that we have become a national party and wrested power from it in the MCD. LG sahab is doing everything in accordance with the BJP’s directions and that is troubling the people of Delhi. The more worried Delhi’s people are, the happier the BJP gets,” Bhardwaj had claimed. He had further said that the LG’s directions would not stand in the eyes of law.