Government Advertisements: SC demands reply from Government and NGOs on panel report

Government Advertisements: SC demands reply from Government and NGOs on panel report

An apex Court bench comprising of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Arun Mishra has demanded a reply from the Centre and the others, refusing to order a stop on publication of Government advertisements carrying photos of political figures.

This came as a reply to Advocate Prashant Bhushan’s request that the Government and others should be restrained from giving such advertisements, in the light of the fact that every single day, crores of rupees were being spent on advertisements with a political agenda. The Bench however refused to “push an order” without hearing the other side.

The next date of hearing was set as February 17, being the date on which the replies of all stakeholders have been demanded by the Court.

Earlier in April, a bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam  constituted a four member committee comprising of  former Director of National Judicial Academy, Bhopal, N.R. Madhava Menon, former Lok Sabha Secretary T.K. Viswanathan, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar and the Secretary of Information and Broadcasting Ministry to look in to the matter of allegations of misusing public funds by the government and its authorities in giving advertisements in newspapers and television to get political mileage. Read the order and LiveLaw coverage here.

The report of this panel, as submitted in October, recommended that name and pictures of political parties, their office-bearers etc. should not be used in government advertisements, and also stated that there has been “misuse and abuse” of public money on such advertisements. Advocate Prashant Bhushan has regarded the report of this panel as “salutary”.

These PILs have been filed by NGOs, Common Cause and Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking a writ in the nature of mandamus restraining the Union of India and all the State Governments from using public funds for advertising in a manner so as to project the personalities, parties or particular governments and for laying down binding guidelines which will prevent the abuse of public funds by such advertising.

These Writ Petitions were filed in 2003 and 2004, stating that numerous full page advertisements in the print media and repeated advertisements in the electronic media by the Central Government, State Governments and its agencies.