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AAP party asked to pay Rs 97 crore bill, for splurging govt’s money on ads

In an unprecedented move, a government officer has directed Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal, who is also the chief minister of Delhi, to deposit about Rs 42.26 crore with the state exchequer and about Rs 54.87 crore to other agencies to whom advertisements had been released in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines. The order issued by the additional secretary has made it clear that Mr Kejriwal should immediately reimburse Rs 42.26 crore to the state exchequer and pay the remaining amount of Rs 54.87 crore spent on advertisements for which payments have not been released to the agencies concerned within 30 days.

A senior AAP functionary, on condition of anonymity, said that the order clearly showed the nervousness of the BJP before the civic elections. “They (BJP) are scared of us. Otherwise, you often see advertisements of other chief ministers in Delhi newspapers. By that logic, all those chief ministers should also be directed to refund money they had incurred on advertisements which had been carried in publications outside the territory of their respective states.” The Delhi government order has gained political significance as it has come at a time when the AAP is battling hard to win the upcoming civic elections as its outcome would be termed as a referendum on the government’s two-year performance. Just recently, the AAP had received another blow after lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal cancelled the allotment of its Rouse Avenue party office. The recent order has serious political overtones as it has been issued by the officer of the rank of the additional secretary, who reports to the secretary of his department. The secretary, in turn, reports to the chief secretary and the minister concerned, who are directly under the command of the chief minister. The order which has been issued in pursuance of the August 10, 2016, Delhi high court ruling directing the Committee on Content Regulation of Government Advertising to decide within six weeks the complaint of state Congress president Ajay Maken related to the advertisements released by the city administration.

A three-member committee on the Content Regulation of the Government Advertising had in its order on September 16, 2016, directed that the main purpose and objective of the guidelines framed by the apex court was to prevent misuse of the state funds for the projection of the image of the politicians or the political parties in power. The order said: “Since the same has happened even after the judgement, the only way it could be reminded is to make the political party, the main beneficiary in the process of violation to pay for the expenditure incurred by the government.” The committee had also directed the city government to assess the expenditure it had incurred by issuing advertisements outside Delhi, advertorials in which AAP name was mentioned and those advertisements which publicised the CM’s views and targetted the opposition parties. The order said: “The scrutiny of  available records has revealed that tentatively an amount of Rs 97,14,69,137 (approx) has been assessed to be incurred on advertisements which may be classified into the category of violation of Supreme Court’s guidelines.”

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