To regulate the politically-motivated advertisements issued by various government departments and to prevent the misuse of public funds, the Supreme Court on Wednesday set up a three-member panel which would frame guidelines for the authorities giving advertisements in print and electronic media to get political mileage.
The apex court's decision would have implications for all the ruling parties and the leaders who issue full-page government advertisements before the elections till the time the Election Commission issues model code of conduct.
A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said that substantive guidelines are needed to regulate such advertisements at the cost of public exchequer while constituting a three-member committee comprising former director of National Judicial Academy, Bhopal, N R Madhava Menon, former Lok Sabha secretary T K Viswanathan, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar.
In addition, the court also appointed Secretary of Information and Broadcasting Ministry as member secretary to co-ordinate and provide assistance to the committee.
"Keeping in mind that the time available to this Court is limited and the subject matter for which guidelines are to be framed is sensational and significant, we deem it proper to constitute a committee....," the bench said acception the plea for issuance of guidelines to curb ruling parties from taking political mileage by projecting their leaders in official advertisements
The bench court asked the committee to submit its report within three weeks.
The court's order came on a PIL filed by NGOs, Common Cause and Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL).
The counsel, appearing for one of the NGOs, 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 bench was also told that there was nothing wrong in issuing advertisements and informing the public about the programmes of the government. However, such advertisement campaigns become arbitrary and malafide when aimed at gaining political mileage.
"Use and wastage of public funds in political motivated advertisements designed to project particular personality, party or Government by wasting public money is also in violation of the fundamental rights under Article 21 because of diversion of resources by the governments for partisan interests..,'the plea said.
The court also accepted the arguement that advertisement campaigns are undertaken ostensibly to advertise certain public works and almost all these advertisements contain photographs of the Ministers and important political personalities of the Government, which clearly show that these advertisement are framed for the purpose of highlighting the achievements of the incumbent government and aim to create an impression that those particular political personalities were directly responsible for providing public benefits to the people.