In a setback to the AAP Government, Anil Baijal, the L-G of Delhi, has directed that 97 crores of taxpayer’s money, which the Delhi Government spent on advertisements, are to be now recovered from the party’s funds within 30 days.
This spending by the Delhi Government was found to be in violation of the Supreme Court’s guidelines put out regarding government advertising. These advertisement guidelines were formulated by the Supreme Court in an order dated 13th May 2015.
According to the report, of the 97 crores in question, the AAP Government has already paid 42 crores to the ad agencies using the public exchequer. This would be reimbursed from the party and the rest of the due amount would be paid by the party itself in its own capacity.
The AAP Government has been under the scanner for long when it comes to its advertisement spending. We had put out a report in July 2016 that examined the legality of the whole exercise, and we found enough examples of them being in violation of the rules.
The report talked about how the Delhi govt’s advertisements had appeared in all corners of the country and even in vernacular languages like Odia and Gujarati. Plus the advertisements were not in form of old fashioned posters or banners but were cheekily placed as advertorials, marketing solutions, Vigyapan Parishish, etc., which could have easily passed off as news reports for the untrained eye.
The objectives of the guidelines which the AAP government was clearly violating were:
- The guidelines wished to clearly prevent arbitrary use of public funds without any attended pubic interest. Plus the government’s message has to be well coordinated and effectively managed. This was reportedly violated by the AAP govt when it put out advertorials, that too in far flung areas of the country.
- The advertisements should not be promoting the political interest of the ruling party but the AAP govt had put out ads, which claimed how the center had withheld 14 of its bills or mentioned phrases like “they kept troubling us, we kept working” among others.
- The govt should just inform people its constitutionally obligated to. Hence the AAP govt of Delhi had no business making people all over India aware about its achievements.
- The guidelines also mention that money should not be spent to receive “favorable” reporting from media houses. But there have been reports which point towards AAP misusing its position.
Based on all the allegations of wrongdoing, the Center had set up a three member committee headed by former Chief Election Commissioner B B Tandon to look into the advertising fiasco. This committee had in September 2016 indicted the Delhi govt for misusing public funds. The commission had recommended that entire amount be recovered from the Aam Aadmi Party.
Recently a CAG report too had found the AAP govt in violation of SC norms based on the govt’s decision to spend about 33 crores on releasing advertisements outside Delhi.