Centre opposes in SC guidelines to regulate its advertisements

Government on Tuesday opposed in Supreme Court the framing of guidelines on regulating its advertisements, saying this did not fall under the ambit of judicial purview as an elected dispensation was answerable to Parliament.

The government also asked as to how would the court decide which of the advertisement has been issued to gain political mileage.

A bench comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and Pinaki Chandra, which reserved its verdict on various pleas on the issue, said it would consider submissions of all parties concerned including the central government.

Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, said, “these are matters which should be left to the government and are outside the purview of the courts. The government communicates to the public at large through these advertisements on policy and other matters.”

He was opposing to the submission of Prashant Bhushan, who was representing an NGO, that there should be an ombudsman to regulate misuse of public money by the government of the day by giving advertisements to gain political mileage.

“The government expenditure is subject to whole lot of parliamentary procedures and each penny is accounted for and is subject to the audit of the CAG. This is not a case akin to the Visakha case where the courts can step in,” the AG said.

Giving several instances, he said it would amount to “pre-censorship” as it is difficult to judge which of the advertisement is being given to gain political mileage.

“Today, we have the swine flu campaign going on across the country. Do we suggest that these advertisements should not contain the pictures of the health minister or health secretary etc. It cannot be said this (advertisement) is given with malafide intention,” he said, adding that every government department was entitled by Parliament to spend a particular amount under a particular head.

“On what basis, you will decide that it is malafide and is being given to gain political mileage. Ultimately, the government is answerable to Parliament,” he said.

At the outset, Bhushan endorsed as “salutary” the recommendations of the court-appointed committee and said that they should be issued by the court to ensure that their non-adherence invite consequences.

Calcutta HC extends stay on Singur land return

The Calcutta High Court on Thursday extended the stay on state government move to return to farmers the land acquired in Singur till the hearing on Tata Motors’ appeal in the case is completed.

“The division bench of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghosh and Mrinal Kanti Chaudhuri extended the stay on the distribution of land till the disposal of the appeal. The petition will be heard on a daily basis Monday onwards,” state government counsel Kalyan Banerjee said.

The court also rejected the government’s plea to restrict the stay only to the land owned by the company.

A total of 997 acres of land in Singur in Hooghly district was leased to Tatas by the Left government for the firm’s Nano car project, along with several vendors who were to set up ancillary units at the site.

While 645 acres were allotted to the company, the rest of the land was given to the vendors.

“The stay first granted by the Supreme Court and subsequently confirmed and extended by the Calcutta High Court applies to the whole area,” company counsel Siddharth Mitra said.

The hearing of the appeal began on Thursday after it was shifted from another division bench, after a government counsel argued that the bench did not have the power to determine the case.

The Supreme Court on June 29 granted stay on the return of land to the farmers till the disposal of the petition filed by the Tatas before the high court.

Calcutta High Court’s Justice IP Mukerji on September 28 declared the Singur land law enacted by the Mamata Banerjee-led government as constitutional and valid.

However, the company was held entitled to compensation, which was to be ascertained by district judge of Hooghly.

The automobile major had to shift its Nano small car plant to Gujarat from Singur in 2008, owing to protests by farmers, led by the Trinamool Congress. The party sought the return of 400 acres taken from farmers, who were reportedly unwilling to part with their land.

Within a month of forming the government in May, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee enacted the Singur land law with the objective of returning the land to the farmers.