Delhi High Court today refrained from granting any interim stay on advertisements allegedly “glorifying” Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and AAP while demonising the Opposition.
“Interim relief sought by the petitioner by way of this writ petition cannot be granted, unless I hear the Centre on what the steps they have taken with regard to the constitution of the three-member implementing body meant to ensure compliance of the Government Advertising (Content Regulation) Guidelines 2014 laid down by the Supreme Court (to check misuse of public money),” Justice V P Vaish said.
The judge also issued notice to the Centre, asking it to file an affidavit within one week and fixed the matter for further hearing on August 3.
The court said it would wait for their response before passing any interim order on the plea filed by NGO Nyayaa Path, which has also sought direction to the Delhi government to immediately withdraw a recent television advertisement and “restrain itself from such type of image building exercise of Arvind Kejriwal”.
The Kejriwal-government had on July 12 come out with an advertisement with tagline ‘Wo pareshaan karte rahein, hum kaam karte rahein’ (they trouble us, but we continue to work).
Referring to the recent advertisement published from Mumbai, the petitioner has sought direction to the Centre, Lt Governor and Delhi Government that its cost be recovered from Kejriwal, who was being glorified by it.
Hearing the oral order of the bench, senior advocate Chetan Sharma, appearing for the NGO, said if the court is not inclined to grant any interim stay, then the petition should be dismissed, because the same will become infructuous once AAP government allocates its funds for further advertisement.
Sharma, had earlier, taken objection to the tagline of the advertisement and asked what does “Wo” (they) mean.
“Is ‘Wo’ referring to the judiciary because some of their leaders are behind bars or does it refer to the opposition or the media, just because the media has now given them a cold shoulder. Now they are using tax payers’ money in issuing advertisements,” he had said.
Centre’s standing counsel Anil Soni told the court that this is a matter of concern and needs to be examined because huge amount of funds are allegedly being allocated for such advertisements.
The petitioner’s counsel had said AAP’s campaign was like what Hitler had done, adding “It’s like feed a hundred lies to public and it will become the truth. Why are advertisements appearing in the newspapers of Mumbai highlighting the issues of Delhi.”
“Is it because they want to expand political campaign for upcoming elections on tax-payers’ money, which is meant for the people of Delhi,” the counsel had contended.
The NGO has claimed that the Delhi government has launched a TV advertisement which was “being telecast on almost all major channels.
It is pertinent to mention that the ad glorifies Kejriwal while demonising other people, which obviously refers to the Opposition party in Delhi, it charged.
“The advertisement is being aired all over the country at the expense of tax payers of Delhi. The advertisement is also in contravention of ratio as laid down by the Supreme Court in judgement dated May 13, 2015,” the NGO said.
The petitioner said the Centre has failed to put in place the three-member body, and taking advantage of the situation, the Delhi government was “constantly violating” the guidelines by repeatedly airing politically-motivated advertisements on TV, newspapers and radio from promoting the party in power (AAP).
The Supreme Court had on May 13, in a historic judgement, held that taxpayers’ money cannot be spent to build “personality cults” of political leaders and had restrained ruling parties from publishing photographs of political leaders or prominent persons in government-funded advertisements.
The apex court had said such photos divert attention from the policy of the government, unnecessarily associate an individual with a government project and pave the way for cultivating a “personality cult”.