The Delhi government has served a notice on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) giving it a total of 10 days to deposit Rs 164 crore for its political advertisements published allegedly in the form of government advertisements in the year 2016-17. The Delhi government’s Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) on Wednesday issued the recovery notice, to the AAP which it said had violated the guidelines on political advertisements issued by the Supreme Court and cost the State exchequer.
According to sources, if the AAP fails to make the payment, legal action, including sealing of the office of the AAP and attachment of the properties of the party shall be done. Incidentally, Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, VK Saxena had on December 19, 2022 directed the Delhi chief secretary to recover Rs 99.31 crore spent on advertisements in 2015-2016 from the AAP.
Following the L-G’s instructions, the DIP issued a notice for the recovery of a total of Rs 163.62 crore, which includes included Rs 99.31 crore as principal and Rs 64.31 crore as interest. The Supreme Court, in its judgements of May 2015 and March 2016 on a batch of writ petitions. had constituted in April 2016, a three-member Committee of Content Regulation of Government Advertising (CCRGA) under the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, to regulate the advertising content and eliminate unproductive expenditure of government revenue.
After a complaint was filed before it by the Ajay Maken of the Congress Party, the CCRGA conducted an investigation and found certain advertisements by the Delhi government in violation of the apex court’s guidelines. The CCRGA directed the Delhi government’s DIP to quantify the amounts spent in such advertisements and recover the same from the AAP.
The CCRGA, in its order on September 16, 2016, said “the main purpose and objectives of the guidelines framed by the Supreme Court was to prevent misuse of government fund for the projection of image of the politician or the political party in power”. “Since the same has happened even after the Supreme Court judgment, the only way it could be rectified is to make the political party, the main beneficiary in the process of violation, pay for the expenditure incurred by the government,” the CCRGA said.
After the CCRGA order, a review petition was filed by the AAP government on September 22, 2016, which the committee dismissed on November 11, 2016. Subsequently, a demand notice was issued on March 30, 2017 by the DIP, Delhi Government to the AAP convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The AAP challenged the notice in the Delhi High court but the court refused to grant a stay against the recovery of the amount from the AAP.
The assessed amount of Rs 97.14 crore (Rs 97,14,69,137) was required to be reimbursed by the AAP to the state exchequer. The recovery notice to the AAP’s convenor said after a reassessment in the financial year 2022-2023, an updated amount comes to Rs 106,42,26,121(an amount of Rs 99,31,10,053 paid + Rs 7,11,16,068 unpaid).
The amount to be reimbursed to the State exchequer, including an amount of Rs 99,31,10,053 (amount already paid by DIP) plus Penal Interest of Rs 64,30,78,212 (up to 28.12.2022) comes to Rs 163,61,88,265 (Rs. One Hundred and Sixty Three Crores, Sixty One Lakh, Eighty Eight Thousand, Two Hundred and Sixty Five only) as conveyed vide DIP’s demand notice dated December 28, 2022. It is to be reimbursed by the AAP in pursuance to the said notices dated December 26, 2022 and December 28, 2022, respectively, within 10 days from the date of issuance of the said notices. The DIP said it has not yet received the said amount in the account details given in the said notices and therefore, a final opportunity is hereby given to the AAP to reimburse the amount within 10 days failing which further necessary action as per law will be taken.