Violation of SC guidelines on Govt. Advertisements: CPIL moves contempt petition against Chief Secretaries of Delhi and Tamil Nadu

Violation of SC guidelines on Govt. Advertisements: CPIL moves contempt petition against Chief Secretaries of Delhi and Tamil Nadu

The Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) has moved a contempt petition before the Supreme Court alleging that the Governments of Delhi and Tamil Nadu have willfully disobeyed its judgment passed in a writ petition filed by the NGO’s - CPIL and Common Cause in which the Apex Court had issued certain guidelines to prevent misuse of public funds by government advertisements.

In the writ petition filed by CPIL and Common Cause, seeking to restrain the Union of India and all State Governments from using public funds on Government advertisements primarily intended to project individual functionaries of the Government or a political party, the Supreme Court had approved and accepted, with a slight modification (in respect of publication of photographs of the Government functionaries and political leaders along with the advertisement), the guidelines recommended by the committee to look into misuse of public fund by government advertisements.

The Committee in its recommendations had inter alia specifically stated that “Display material must be presented in objective language and be free of political argument or partisan standpoint” and further that  “Government advertising shall maintain political neutrality and avoid glorification of political personalities and projecting a positive impression of the party in power or a negative impression of parties critical of the government.” It had also recommended that government advertisements should not “Mention the party in government by name”; or “directly attack the views or actions of others in opposition.”

The petitioners have alleged that despite there being a clear direction issued by the Supreme Court, the respondents (Chief Secretaries of Government of Delhi and Tamil Nadu respectively) have acted in willful disobedience and derogation of the law laid down by the  Court.

Pointing out specifically the instances of contempt of court committed by the respondents, CPIL has averred in its petition- a copy of which has been accessed by “Live Law”, that the Delhi Government has allocated Rupees 526 crores of fund for advertisement as compared to 23.7 cr in 2014-2015, 25 cr in 2013-2014, 24.9 cr in 2012-2013 and 27.6 cr in 2011-2012 ‘and is wasting the same for espousing their own political interest by glorifying the party in power’.

CPIL alleges that the Delhi Government has willfully and deliberately issued government advertisement, without complying with the directions issued by the Court. “The advertisements would show they have been issued wasting huge public money to get political mileage for the party in power, its political leaders at the cost of state exchequer”, alleges the petitioner, CPIL. 

Extracting the content of an advertisement put out by Delhi Government on 15.06.2015, CPIL avers in its petition that “the advertisement of 2.00 minutes duration (apprx.) issued by the GNCTD on 15.06.2015 was shown frequently on television, on all the channels at short interval, just to get political mileage and to put other parties in bad light.”

CPIL also states that “the recent advertisement of 01.27 minute duration issued by the GNCTD on 09.07.2015 is being advertised rampantly on television at short interval, bearing the tagline ‘wo pareshan karte rahe hum kaam karte rahe’, that is, ‘they troubled us but we continued with our work.’”

CPIL has alleged that the Delhi Government is wasting public money just to espouse its own cause and to glorify its leaders. “The advertisement issued by the GNCTD would show how the party in power could waste public money by allocating 22 times more funds for advertisement just to espouse its own cause and to create glorification of the government and its leaders. It portrays a case for clear derogation and wilful violation of this Hon’ble Court’s order not only in letters but also in spirit,” avers the petitioner in its contempt petition.

Next, pointing out the willful disobedience of the Court’s order by the State of Tamil Nadu, the petitioner CPIL says in its petition that “the State of Tamil Nadu published advertisement dated 26.05.2015, 30.05.2015, 02.06.2015 and 04.06.2015 on completion of four years of tenure in almost all leading newspapers bearing photograph of the chief minister of the state. The advertisement ran into two full pages referring the chief minister as ‘revolutionary leader’ etc. glorifying the government and the chief minister. Such advertisements have the tendency to create personality cult by projecting the political leader and party in power for their own political benefit at government expenses. The advertisement running into more than two full pages including the front page, mentions the chief minister of the state as a ‘revolutionary leader’, hoping that her four glorious years in power will ensure that the electorate extends ‘Amma’s rule forever’ clearly establishing the fact that the advertisements have been issued for political glorification and mileage at government expenses.”

CPIL points out in its petition that the advertisements published by the Governments of Delhi and Tamil Nadu have been issued “merely to get political mileage for the party in power, to create political rift and to show the other party in bad light. Therefore, states through their advertisements have not only violated the directions issued by this Hon’ble court in letters but also in spirit.”

CPIL has accordingly sought initiation of contempt proceeding against the alleged contemnor/respondents for willfully and deliberately disobeying the direction of the Supreme Court in its judgment dated 13.05.2015.

Read the petition here.