A panel appointed by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on directions of the Supreme Court on Friday said that the Aam Aadmi Party violated the top court’s guidelines and spent public money on advertisements for its government. The committee had received a complaint from Congress leader Ajay Maken on the issue. The three-member panel – comprising former Chief Election Commissioner BB Tandon, advertising executive Piyush Pandey and journalist Rajat Sharma – also directed the AAP to reimburse the money spent on such ads and said the Delhi government should assess its expenditure.
The Supreme Court had issued guidelines on such expenditure in a ruling May 13, 2015. While Maken reportedly pointed out nine areas in which the party violated SC guidelines on ad expenditure, the panel concluded that six guidelines were not followed. The nine points that Maken had singled out were national ads, ads in newspapers that were allegedly designed as newspaper reports, false and misleading ads, largescale ads on the AAP government’s anniversary, those for self-glorification and targeting of political opponents, those against the media, ads mentioning the party in power by name, ones on issues outside the Delhi government’s jurisdiction, and unequal distribution of ads to patronise select media houses, The Times of India reported.
State minister Kapil Mishra told The Indian Express, “I am not aware of what the report says but based on the charges made against us, all I can say is there should be the same rules for all state governments. Why is the Delhi government being singled out?” He added that “politically motivated committees” could not pass such judgments.
When asked by the panel for its response on the ads, the Delhi government on August 30 had said it took a “conscious decision to communicate the path-breaking accomplishments made in health, education, water supply, roads, etc, to not only the citizenry of Delhi but also the people across the country”, The Indian Express reported. The AAP also said Maken’s allegations were unjustified because the ads “amount to a fraction of the government expenditure in the overall scheme of things”.
The panel's report comes as the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre and the Delhi government continue to spar over several issues. The Delhi High Court in August had ruled that the Lieutenant Governor held administrative power in Delhi, while several AAP leaders have recently been embroiled in cases, including corruption and sexual harassment ones.