The Supreme Court on Tuesday imposed strict curbs on “politically motivated” advertisements in the media by governments and leaders issued at the cost of public funds, and said photographs of only President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India can be published.
A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana accepted most of the recommendations of the court-mandated panel but differed with it on also allowing photographs of Governors and Chief Ministers of states in newspapers and other media.
The bench held that photographs have the tendency of associating personalities with social benefit schemes and this was antithesis to the Indian democracy.
The bench directed the government to appoint a three-member panel of ombudsman to ensure its directions are complied with.
Stating that restrictions was not required against publication of ads on the eve of elections, the bench said that it hoped the government would adhere to all the directives issued by it.
The bench further said there was no need to direct periodic special performance audit.
It noted that there was no legislation on the matter and hence the top court could issue directives to fulfill the mandates of the directive principles of state policy, as enshrined under the Constitution.
The court had in April last year ordered setting up of a panel to frame comprehensive guidelines to help end the abuse of public ads for political mileage.
Advocating strict regulation of expenditure and content of advertisements in the media by governments and politicians, a Supreme Court panel had in October recommended a slew of measures to “keep politics away” from such ads to check “misuse and abuse” of public money.
The court-appointed high-powered committee stated that only pictures and names of the President, Prime Minister, Governors and Chief Ministers should be published in government advertisements without mentioning or using names and pictures of political parties and their office bearers.
Headed by eminent academician Professor N R Madhava Menon, the three-member panel suggested ways to prevent splurge of the public fund. The panel said expenditure on public advertisements should be declared by each ministry and public sector undertaking and that it should be audited by the CAG.
The report suggested there be an implementation committee, headed by either an ombudsman or Cabinet Secretary or Secretary Information and Broadcasting Ministry, to maintain a distinction between legitimate message of government from that of political message till a law is enacted.
It said government advertisements should not be used to the advantage of the ruling party and for assailing the opposition. It also endorsed a suggestion by the Election Commission that there must be severe restrictions on such advertisements six months prior to elections.
The committee, comprising T K Viswanathan, former Secretary General of Lok Sabhaand Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, recommended that there should only be a single advertisement, preferably by the I&B Ministry, in respect of …continued »