LG revives ad spend battle with Delhi govt | Latest News India


Delhi Lieutenant Governor (LG) VK Saxena has ordered the recovery of Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar 97 crore of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), was allegedly spent on advertisements in violation of Supreme Court guidelines — a move the AAP government said was illegal.

Saxena’s order, the latest in an ongoing spat between the elected state government and the federal government-appointed administrator, cited the findings of a three-member panel appointed by the Union government, which on 16 September 2016 found the Kejriwal government guilty. He said it was a misuse of taxpayers’ money in advertisements and that the party should return the funds. The recall is related to advertisements posted outside Delhi.

In a fresh order, Saxena ordered legal action including seizure of properties if the AAP fails to deposit the amount and ordered the government to look into the advertisements issued after 2019.

Saxena’s order will intensify the tussle between the LG and the AAP government. The LG had earlier this year ordered several probes against the AAP government, including MP CM Manish Sisodia on the tax policy alleged by the Central Bureau of Investigation. AAP has rejected all the allegations. AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj, responding to Saxena’s order on Tuesday, said it was illegal and that the LG had no power to recover money from AAP.

“The order is illegal. The order has no legal effect. All BJP ruled states including Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Goa; and the Congress governments of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have also published advertisements of their schemes in Delhi newspapers. This is the combined cost of advertisements placed by BJP-ruled states in Delhi 22,000 million. When the BJP pays 22,000 million returned to the treasury, we will pay them 97 million to the treasury. The LG does not understand the law and has no shame,” Bharadwaj said at a press conference on Tuesday.

The LG’s order was issued in a file on September 12 in response to a complaint filed by Delhi opposition leader Ramvir Singh Bidhuri.

“The secretary of the department will take the necessary measures to recover 97.14 crores with penal interest within 15 days of the AAP, failing which all legal actions including seizure of the party’s property etc. will be taken within a limited period. At the same time, the chief secretary to submit all relevant facts before the Election Commission of India… regarding advertisements on behalf of political parties for appropriate action,” the LG said in the filing. HT has reviewed a copy of the LG’s order.

The Supreme Court on 13 May 2015 banned ruling parties from placing pictures of their leaders in advertisements promoting welfare schemes. He said that the government advertisements will only carry pictures of the President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India. On March 16, 2016, the court modified the order, allowing photographs of chief ministers, governors and state ministers.

A government committee for content regulation of advertising (CCRGA) was formed following a complaint by Congress leader Ajay Maken, after a verdict that it scrutinized municipal government advertisements and concluded that the advertisements are meritorious. 97 million violated the guidelines.

On May 13, 2015, the Supreme Court while striking down a writ laid down guidelines to regulate government advertising and eliminate unproductive spending. Later, on April 6, 2016, the Government Content Regulatory Commission for Advertisements (CCRGA) was constituted to regulate advertisement content and eliminate non-productive expenditure of government revenue in the direction of SC.

The CCRGA investigated the advertisements published by the Delhi government’s DIP, and on September 16, 2016, issued orders identifying specific advertisements published by the Delhi government that violated the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, and directed the Directorate of Information and Publicity. To quantify the amounts spent by the Delhi government on such advertisements and to recover the same from AAP.

DIP verified and quantified this 97.14 crore was spent or reserved by the government for “disagreeable advertisements”. Of these, the payments are at least as long as the amount 42.26 million had already been released by DIP, 54.87 crore was pending payment. DIP has asked AAP to pay 42.26 crore to the state exchequer and 54.87 crore to the concerned agencies.

There was no response from the Delhi government or the DIP office.

Senior Congress leader Ajay Maken told HT, “On September 16, 2016, a Supreme Court-ordered committee on my request found that Arvind Kejriwal had violated 6 out of 9 rules while misusing government advertisements for political purposes. And directions for recovery 97 million were given.”

The orders of the LG said the recovery order 97.14 crore were not fulfilled even after five years and 8 months and a review of all advertisements aired after August 9, 2019 was requested when a content regulation committee set up by Manish Sisodia started looking into the advertisements.

The LG also declared the content regulation commission for the Delhi NCT Government set up on Sisodia’s orders invalid and insisted that only the CCRGA set up by the information and broadcasting ministry was valid.

In a 10-point order, Saxena ordered the recall of the 2016 order 97 crore from AAP, a review of all advertisements released by the government after August 2019 when the regulatory commission set up by former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia began work and a special audit of the advertising department.

The LG asked the DIP to evaluate the expenses incurred in the operation of the content regulation panel set up by Sisodia and ways to reimburse the expenses within 30 days. Saxena also applied for Shabdarth – a public agency set up by the Delhi government – today. Out of the total sanction of 38 officials consisting of 35 persons working on contract, only the government employees will have it. Shabdarth’s finances since its inception in 2015 will also be audited, the LG ordered.

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