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SC panel comes out with guidelines on government advertisements

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New Delhi: A Supreme Court-appointed high- powered committee has recommended that names and pictures of political parties and their office bearers like presidents be not mentioned in government advertisements.
Holding that there had been ‘misuse and abuse’ of public money on such advertisements, the three-member committee headed by eminent academician Professor NR Madhava Menon has framed guidelines to regulate expenditure and contents of such advertisements paid out of tax payers’ money.
The report, submitted to the Apex Court, has emphasised that only pictures and names of the President, the Prime Minister, Governor and Chief Ministers be published to ‘keep politics away from such ads’.
Sources said the Committee has also endorsed the suggestions of the Election Commission that there must be ‘severe’ restrictions on such advertisements six months prior to elections.
It recommended that a deadline should be fixed for prohibiting their publication and the poll panel should be authorised for the purpose.
The committee, also comprising TK Viswanathan, former Secretary General of Lok Sabha and Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, recommended that there should only be a single advertisement, preferably by Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B Ministry), in respect of commemorative advertisements, which are given on birth and death anniversary of an important personality.
The Committee said that an amount or budget for the public advertisements should be declared by each ministry and public sector undertaking and it should be audited by CAG.
The Committee, which also suggested that there should be an implementation committee headed by either Ombudsman, or Cabinet Secretary or Secretary I&B Ministry, said government advertisements should not be allowed to the advantage of the ruling party and for assailing the opposition.
Further, sources said that the committee in its guidelines suggested that there should be a clear-cut differentiation between legitimate message of government from that of political message which can be done by enacting legislation.
The committee prepared its guidelines by consulting provision of various countries and having meeting with all state governments and political parties.
The Apex Court had on April 24 decided to frame guidelines to prevent misuse of public funds by the government and its authorities in giving advertisements in newspapers and television for political mileage and set up the committee.
It had said there is a need to distinguish between the advertisements that are part of government messaging and daily business and advertisements that are politically motivated.
“In these circumstances, conceding that the existing DAVP policy/guidelines do not govern the issues raised in these writ petitions and do not lay down any criteria for the advertisements to qualify for public purpose as opposed to partisan ends and political mileage, there is a need for substantive guidelines to be issued by this court until the legislature enacts a law in this regard,” it said.

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