Delhi Lieutenant Governor (LG) V.K. Saxena directed general secretary Naresh Kumar to recover. ₹97 crore from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) spent on advertisements allegedly in violation of Supreme Court guidelines, the AAP government has said is illegal.
Saxena’s order, the latest in an ongoing feud between the state’s elected government and the federal government-appointed administrator, cited the findings of a three-member commission appointed by the Union government on September 16, 2016, which found the Kejriwal government guilty. “Taxpayers’ money was spent on advertising for inappropriate purposes,” he said, adding that the money should be reimbursed by the party. Recovery is related to advertisements published outside Delhi.
In a fresh order, Saxena directed that AAP should face legal action, including confiscation of properties, if it does not deposit the money, and ordered a probe into the advertisements released by the government after 2019.
Saxena’s order will intensify the rift between the LG and the AAP government. Earlier this year, the LG had ordered several probes against the AAP government, including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) indictment against Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia over the excise policy. AAP dismissed all allegations. Responding to Saxena’s order on Tuesday, senior AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said it was illegal and the LG had no right to recover money from AAP.
“The order is illegal. The order has no legal value. All BJP-ruled states including Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Goa; Congress governments in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are also publishing advertisements for their schemes in Delhi newspapers. Aggregate ad spend posted by BJP-ruled states in Delhi ₹22,000 crore. When the BJP pays ₹If 22,000 million is returned to the budget, we will pay ₹97 million MNT in the budget. LG has no idea about the law and has no shame,” Bharadwaj said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The LG’s order was issued following a complaint filed on September 12 by Leader of Opposition in Delhi Ramveer Singh Bidhuri.
“Department secretary will take necessary steps for recovery ₹If the $97.14 million fine is not paid within 15 days, all legal measures, including the seizure of the parties’ property, will be taken in time. “At the same time, the Chief Secretary is directed to submit all the facts regarding advertisements on behalf of political parties to the Election Commission of India… for appropriate action,” the LG statement said. HT has reviewed a copy of the LG order.
On May 13, 2015, the Supreme Court banned the ruling parties from placing their leader’s photo in advertisements promoting welfare programs. It claims that government advertisements will only have photographs of the President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India. On March 16, 2016, the court amended the order and allowed photographs of the prime minister, governor, and state ministers.
The government’s Committee for Content Regulation of Advertisements (CCRGA) was formed following a court order that found the ads to be valuable and scrutinized municipal advertisements following a complaint by Congress leader Ajay Maken. ₹97 million violated the guidelines.
The Supreme Court of the State issued guidelines for regulating state advertising and eliminating inefficient expenses while deciding on the application at the session of May 13, 2015. Then, on April 6, 2016, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting established the State Advertising Content Regulatory Committee (SRCRC) with three members to regulate advertising content and eliminate inefficient spending of state revenue.
The CCRGA has directed the Information and Publicity Department, Delhi, to investigate the advertisements published by the DIP of the Delhi government and on September 16, 2016, to identify certain advertisements published by the Delhi government in violation of the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court. The Delhi Government will account for the amount spent on such advertisements and reimburse the same to AAP.
DIP has established and calculated it ₹97.14 million MNT was spent or ordered by the government for the reason of “unregulated advertising”. At the minimum payment of this ₹42.26 crore had already been released by DIP. ₹54.87 million MNT was expected to be disbursed. DIP wanted to pay AAP ₹42.26 million MNT in the state budget ₹54.87 million to the concerned institutions.
There was no response from the Delhi government or the DIP office.
Senior Congress leader Ajay Maken told HT: On September 16, 2016, the committee set up on my petition by the Supreme Court found that Arvind Kejriwal had violated Rule 6 of the 9 by misusing government advertisements for political purposes. And rehabilitation direction ₹97 million MNT was given.”
The order of the LG said the recovery order ₹97.14 crore has not been fulfilled even after five years and eight months, and all advertisements published after August 9, 2019, have been called for scrutiny when the Manish Sisodia-founded content moderation committee starts scrutinizing advertisements.
The LG declared the content regulatory committee of the NCT of Delhi government set up at the behest of Sisodia to be null and void and pointed out that only the CCRGA constituted by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was valid.
In a 10-point order, Saxena ordered implementation of the rehabilitation order of 2016 ₹97 million from the AAP, and since August 2019, a regulatory committee set up by former deputy minister Manish Sisodia has scrutinized all government advertisements and conducted a special audit of the advertising department.
The LG has asked the DIP to assess the cost incurred in the operation of the content regulatory body set up by Sisodia and ways to recover the cost from the concerned persons within 30 days. Saxena also asked about Shabdarth, a public agency set up by the Delhi government. Out of the total 38 authorized officials, 35 people working under contract, only government employees will work. The government has mandated that Shabdart’s finances should also be audited since its inception in 2015.