In a development that may set the stage for a fresh face-off between the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party in Delhi, Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena has directed the Chief Secretary to initiate proceedings for the recovery of an amount of Rs 97 crore from AAP for allegedly pushing political advertisements as government ads paid for by the Delhi government.
Accusing the AAP government of using the state exchequer to pay for the advertisements issued by AAP in violation of the Supreme Court order, the L-G has also asked the Chief Secretary to implement the recommendations of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA), reported The Indian Express.
Following the apex court’s order in 2016, the Centre formed a three-member committee (CCRGA) in 2017 to regulate advertising content.
“In compliance of the said order dated 16.09.2016 of CCRGA, the DIP, ascertained and quantified that an amount of Rs. 97,14,69,137/- had been spent/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, said officials adding that accordingly, DIP, vide letter dated 30.03.2017, directed the Convener of AAP (Arvind Kejriwal
In his letter, the L-G pointed out that AAP is yet to comply with the 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 officials quoted by IE.
The officials further said that the Directorate of Vigilance (DoV) has also found in a probe that the DIP did not recover amounts worth Rs. 42,26,81,265, and also paid the pending amount of Rs.54,87,87,872, instead of getting the AAP to pay the same as per the order.
According to the L-G, such advertisements are prima facie and blatantly violative of the Supreme Court order and have been continuously issued by DIP on the direction of the ministers. “One such example of wasteful expenditure in violation of the Supreme Court order is the case of advertisements in the bio-decomposer project. While the entire cost for the bio-decomposer project was Rs.41.62 Lakhs, the expenditure incurred for advertising it was Rs. 16.94 Crore, which is 40 times higher than the project cost,” said the L-G
According to the L-G house officials, such actions by AAP and its ministers by way of putting in place a Committee of its own to look into violations of the Supreme Court guidelines. “This in itself was illegal, since the Committee appointed by the GoI as per orders of the Supreme Court, was authorized and empowered with jurisdiction over all GoI advertisements as well as those issued by the Union Territories, that includes Delhi,” they said, according to The Indian Express.
The L-G has now directed the Chief Secretary to look into all advertisements since September 2016 and refer them to the CCRGA for vetting and to ascertain if they were in compliance with the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court.