SC sets up panel to regulate government ad spend on politicians

The Supreme Court today announced the constitution of a three-member committee that would frame guidelines aimed at regulating government spending on advertisements that glorify politicians in the media.

Supreme CourtA three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam held that the existing DAVP guidelines do not cover such advertisements and there was a need to frame guidelines for such advertisements.

The panel, headed by Prof NR Madhav Menon, founder director of Bangalore's National Law University, has former Lok Sabha secretary general TK Vishwanathan and senior advocate Ranjit Kumar as the other two members.

The court has asked information and broadcasting secretary to coordinate the meetings of the committee, which in turn has been asked to submit its report to the court in three months' time.

The apex court observed that there was a need for stringent checks against excess spending on public advertisements published in the media by both the central and state governments.

The passed comes on a PIL filed by NGOs Common Cause and Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) pleading the court to frame guidelines.

The petition had sought issuance of guidelines for curbing ruling parties from projecting their leaders in official advertisements and taking political mileage.

Counsel for Common Cause had argued that the glorification of politicians linked to the ruling establishment, in order to attain political mileage at the cost of public exchequer, was violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

The counsel, representing CPIL, however, told the court that there was nothing wrong in issuing advertisements and informing the public about the programmes of the government.

The SC bench noted that the existing rules and guidelines on issuing advertisements, highlighting the programmes, policies and achievements on the eve of elections or on the birthdays of leaders, were not adequate.

The bench said that the SC will have to issue the comprehensive guidelines in the larger public interest till Parliament enacts a law on the subject.

The SC moves coincides the President's advice of caution to the Delhi government on publicising certain policies meant for minority welfare.

Acting on Delhi Lokayukta Justice Manmohan Sarin's recommendations, President Pranab Mukherjee has directed the Delhi government's department of welfare for SC/ST/OBC and minority community ''to be careful'' in publicising their policies.

The advisory comes after Justice Sarin in May this year recommended to the President that an advisory be issued to chief minister Sheila Dikshit and PWD minister Raj Kumar Chauhan asking them to desist from putting their photographs on application forms offering loan at low rates under the `Dilli Swarojgar Yojna'.

Mukherjee also asked the Delhi government to frame guidelines to govern such advertisement.