New Delhi: The Supreme Court yesterday constituted a three-member committee to frame guidelines to regulate issuance of advertisements by the government and its departments with an obvious political message.
The bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice N V Ramana said “the existing DAVP policy/guidelines do not govern the issues raised” by the NGO Common Cause and the CPIL as the guidelines “do not lay down any criteria for the advertisements to qualify for ‘public purpose’ as opposed to partisan ends and political mileage....”
The court said “there is a need for substantive guidelines to be issued by this court until the legislature enacts a law in this regard”.
Chief Justice Sathasivam said there was no policy or guideline to regulate the content of government advertisements “and to exclude the possibility of any mala fide use or misuse of public funds on advertisements in order to gain political mileage by the political establishment”.
The three-member committee would comprise N R Madhavan Menon, founder director of Bangalore’s National Law School of India University; T K Vishwanathan, former Lok Sabha secretary general; and counsel Ranjit Kumar.
The court said the information and broadcasting ministry secretary would be member secretary, who would be coordinating and rendering assistance to the committee.
The committee will submit its first report to the apex court in three months time.
Pointing to the limited time available to the court to frame guidelines on the subject which was “sensational and significant”, the bench said: “We deem it proper to constitute a committee to undertake the task of suggesting guidelines to this court after an intricate study of all the best practices in public advertisements in different jurisdictions and to submit the same before this court.”
Accepting the government position that it was only through such advertisements that it communicates its policies, decisions, programmes and initiatives to the people, the court said the plea by the NGOs Common Cause and CPIL was “also not entirely misconceived”.