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Delhi Govt, Centre Slug it Out in Supreme Court Over Public Ads

This time, they are slugging it out in the Supreme Court over the prerogative to set up a committee, which has to probe the propriety of spending by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on advertisements.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:November 23, 2017, 12:35 PM IST
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Delhi Govt, Centre Slug it Out in Supreme Court Over Public Ads
Spending on public ads has been a bone of contention ever since the three member-committee appointed by the Central government has held AAP-government guilty of using public money for political gains. (Representative image/billboardsandoutdooradvertising)
New Delhi: The Centre and the Delhi government are at loggerheads yet again.

This time, they are slugging it out in the Supreme Court over the prerogative to set up a committee, which has to probe the propriety of spending by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on advertisements.

While the Centre has asserted that the Arvind Kejriwal-government cannot have a panel of its own, the latter claims it has a special status because of its own legislative assembly and therefore, like every other state, the Delhi government should have a separate committee.

Spending on public ads has been a bone of contention ever since the three member-committee appointed by the Central government has held AAP-government guilty of using public money for political gains.

On March 30, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s committee, comprising ad expert Piyush Pandey, TV anchor Rajat Sharma and former bureaucrat BB Tandon, ordered AAP to refund Rs 97 crore.

According to the committee, Delhi government had violated the Supreme Court's 2015-guidelines, which had prohibited glorification of personalities by using public money while emphasising that public ads should be used primarily to apprise people of welfare schemes and policies.

The top court had also ordered for setting up appropriate committees by state governments for content regulation of government ads and also examining their propriety.

Subsequently, the Delhi government constituted its own panel in July 2016 but the Centre objected to it, stating that all Union Territories (UTs), including Delhi, will be guided by the Committee already set up by I&B Ministry. By an order in October 2016, the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor further dissolved the AAP government's committee.

Aggrieved, the Delhi government has now moved the Supreme Court, maintaining it must have its own committee since an elected government runs the city through an assembly.

Asked to respond, the Central government, in its affidavit has opposed it vehemently on the ground that the apex court directions were for the state governments and that the Delhi, being a UT, cannot assume to itself any authority under the garb of SC order.

The affidavit said that I&B panel has jurisdiction over all UTs and that Delhi government cannot claim equivalence with any state under the Constitution.

The Central government has also supported the unpropitious order by I&B committee against the AAP.

It has told the court that AAP has been rightly asked to reimburse the public money used for “personal propaganda” and thus the order is “correct and reasonable”.

The Centre further questioned why the Delhi government has been canvassing the case in the Supreme Court when it is AAP — a political party that has been penalised by the committee.

Maintaining that no issue of public importance has arisen in this case, the Centre has requested the Court to dismiss the petition.

The court is likely to hear the case on Thursday.

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| Edited by: Ananya Chakraborty
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