In a setback to Aam Aadmi Party’s Delhi government, a three member committee set up by the central government has found the AAP government guilty of misusing public money on advertisements. The committee plunged into action following a complaint by Congress leader Ajay Maken in May earlier this year.
“The committee has unanimously come to the conclusion that the Government of NCT of Delhi has violated the guidelines issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the six of the nine areas listed by the complainant,” it said. Arvind Kejriwal’s government was caught indulging in issuing outstation, false, misleading advertisements and advertisements aimed at self-glorification besides targeting political opponents.
It stated that the Delhi government’s advertisements had mentioned the name of the party in power and often concerned instances occurring in other states. “The main purpose and objective of the guidelines framed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India was also to prevent misuse of government funds for the projection of image of the politician or the political party in power. Since the same has happened even after the judgment, the only way it could be remedied is to make the political party, the main beneficiary in the process of violation to pay for the expenditure incurred by the Government,” the order mentioned.
The committee directed the Government of NCT of Delhi to assess the expenditure it had incurred in issuing the errant advertisements including the ones issued outside of Delhi on the occasion of various anniversaries, advertisements/advertorials mentioning the name of AAP and advertisements that targeted the opposition parties. Even advertisements publicizing the views of Chief Minister Kejriwal in relation to developments pertaining to other states are to be accounted for.
“The Committee further directs the Govt. of NCT of Delhi to get the entire expenditure so incurred on the above mentioned category of advertisements reimbursed to the State exchequer from the Aam Admi Party,” it added. However, the committee did find of some of the allegations lacking in merit.
Citing Supreme Court guidelines, the committee felt that AAP government was well within legal boundaries to issue large scale advertisements on “completion of a fixed period of government’s tenure like anniversaries”. The accusation related to unequal distribution of government advertisements to the media was also set aside.
Earlier, the AAP government had not filed a response to the notice sent by the committee claiming that they were in the process of setting up their own committee to regulate the content of advertisements. But a judgement delivered by the Delhi High Court on August 10 forced the Delhi government to comply with the committee for the sake of probe.
The three member committee formulated by the Union I&B Ministry was headed by former Chief Election Commissioner BB Tandon. Other two members were acclaimed adman Piyush Pandey and celebrated journalist Rajat Sharma. It is noteworthy to mention that while Pandey played an instrumental role in shaping BJP’s 2014 election campaign, Sharma is seen as a confidante of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley being his contemporary at Shri Ram College of Commerce. The incumbent government previously bestowed both men with Padma awards.