SC forms panel to check misuse of public funds in political advertisements [Read the Judgment]

SC forms panel to check misuse of public funds in political advertisements [Read the Judgment]

Supreme Court today set up a committee for framing guidelines to prevent misuse of public funds by the government and its authorities in giving advertisements in newspapers and television to get political mileage.

A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam while deciding a PIL held that substantive guidelines are needed to regulate advertisements intended to gain political benefits at the cost of public exchequer.

Bench  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.

PIL was 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.

Writ petitions are 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,
instrumentalities including public sector undertakings which project political personalities and proclaim the achievements of particular political governments and parties at the expense of the public exchequer.

Petitioners sought issuance of guidelines for curbing ruling parties from taking political mileage by projecting their leaders in official advertisements.

According to the petitioners glorification of politicians linked to the ruling establishment, in order to attain political mileage at the cost of public exchequer, is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Petitioners also urged that there was nothing wrong in issuing advertisements and informing the public about the programmes of the government unless such advertisements are aimed at gaining political mileage.

Directing to look in to the matter, Court asked the committee to submit its report within three months.

Relevant extract as follows;

"we deem it proper to constitute a Committee consisting of three members to undertake the task of suggesting guidelines to this Court after an intricate study of all the best practices in public advertisements in different jurisdictions and to submit the same before this Court preferably within a period of three months".

 Read the Judgment