A Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice P.C. Ghose has restrained ruling parties from publishing photographs of political leaders or prominent persons in government-funded advertisements.
The Court approved and adopted the following recommendations of the Madhav Menon Committee with regard to:
(1) Publication of photographs of the Government functionaries and political leaders along with the advertisement(s).
(2) Appointment of an Ombudsman
(3) The recommendation with regard to performance audit by each Ministry.
(4) Embargo on advertisements on the eve of the elections.
Common Cause and Centre for Public Interest Litigation had approached the Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, seeking a restrain of the Union of India and all State Governments from using public funds on Government advertisements “which are primarily intended to project individual functionaries of the Government or a political party.”
The Petitioners had contended that “in the garb of communicating with the people, in many instances, undue political advantage and mileage is sought to be achieved by personifying individuals and crediting such individuals or political leaders (who are either from a political party or government functionaries) as being responsible for various government achievements and progressive plans.”
According to the petitioners such practice becomes rampant on the eve of the elections.
The Writ Petitions, filed as public interest litigations, were resisted by the Union of India primarily on the ground that the issues sought to be raised pertain to governmental policies and executive decisions in respect of which it may not be appropriate for the Court to lay down binding guidelines under Article 142.
Earlier in April last year, 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”.
The draft guidelines spell out the following five principles to regulate the contents of advertisements, namely,
iii) Not directed at promoting political interests of a Party,
You may read LiveLaw coverage of the case here.
Read the Judgment here.