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Supreme Court today refused to direct stopping the publication of government advertisements carrying photos of political figures and sought replies from the Centre and others on a court-appointed panel’s recommendations to regulate such publicity materials.

“Before we pass such an order, we should be giving an opportunity to other side,” a bench comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and Arun Mishra said.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the NGOs, said he endorsed as “salutary” the recommendations of the court-appointed committee. He sought that for the time being, the government and others be restrained forthwith from giving such advertisements, as everyday crores of rupees were being spent on political advertisements.

The court said it will consider this aspect on February 17, the next date of hearing, and asked the Centre and others including NGOs, Common Cause and Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) which had filed the pleas, to submit their responses on the report of the panel.

Earlier, the panel had submitted the report and made several recommendations including that the names and pictures of political parties and their office-bearers like Presidents should not be mentioned in government advertisements.

Holding that there has been “misuse and abuse” of public money on such advertisements, the three-member committee headed by eminent academician Prof N R Madhava Menon had framed guidelines to regulate expenditure and contents of such advertisements paid out of tax payers’ money.

The report had emphasized that only pictures and names of the President, the Prime Minister, Governor and Chief Ministers be published to “keep politics away from such ads”.

The panel had also endorsed the suggestions of the Election Commission that there must be “severe” restrictions on such advertisements six months prior to elections.

It had recommended that a deadline should be fixed for prohibiting their publication and the poll panel should be authorised for the purpose.

The apex court had on April 24 decided to frame guidelines to prevent misuse of public funds by the government and its authorities in giving advertisements in newspapers and television to gain political mileage and set up the committee.

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