Apex court panel to frame guidelines for govt ads

Apex court panel to frame guidelines for govt ads

Apex court panel to frame guidelines for govt ads

The Supreme Court on Wednesday set up a three-member committee for framing guidelines to regulate government advertisements, noting that the extant guidelines did not lay down criteria to prevent misuse of public funds for political ends.

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice P Sathasivam passed the order on two PILs filed by NGOs ‘Common Cause’ and ‘Centre for Public Interest Litgation’.

The petitioners urged the court to restrain the Centre and all state governments from using public funds for advertising in a manner so as to project the personalities, parties or particular governments. They sought laying down binding guidelines to prevent the abuse of public funds by such advertising.

“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,” the bench, also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana, said.

The three-member committee would consist of N R Madhavan Menon, founder director of Bangalore’s National Law School of India University, T K Vishwanathan, former Lok Sabha secretary general, and senior advocate Ranjit Kumar.

The court also appointed the information and broadcasting ministry secretary as member secretary of the panel for coordinating and rendering assistance.The committee will submit its first report to the apex court in three months’ time.

The court emphasized that it was important for framing guidelines on the subject after conducting a thorough study.

“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 consisting of three members to undertake the task of suggesting guidelines to this Court after an intricate study of all the best practices in public advertisements,” the bench said.

In its verdict, the court noted that the boundary line between the government advertisements to inform the people and those having political overtones could get blurred; so there was a need to distinguish between the advertisements that were part of government messaging and daily business and advertisements that were politically motivated.