Today's Paper

Court seeks details of money spent on `India Shining'

NEW DELHI, MARCH 3. The Delhi High Court today directed the Union Government to apprise it of the details of the money spent on the "India Shining" advertisement campaign as well as the guidelines governing it.

A Division Bench of the court, comprising Justices B.C. Patel and B.D. Ahmed, directed counsel for the Government, Sanjay Jain, to file the accounts by March 10.

However, the Bench did not issue notices to the respondents or ask the Government to bring out a white paper on the propaganda blitz as requested in two public interest litigation (PIL) petitions filed by the Unemployed Youth Unity Movement, a voluntary organisation, and a local advocate.

Earlier, the Government counsel justified the campaign, submitting that the Government was well within its rights to publicise its policies, programmes and achievements. Political parties in power at the Centre had run publicity campaigns in the past to inform people about their programmes, policies and achievements, he said.

While the Unemployed Youth Unity Movement urged the court to direct the Comptroller and Auditor-General to inquire into the alleged misuse of public funds, the advocate sought an immediate stay on the advertisement in both the print and electronic media.

The two PILs alleged that the Union Government was "utilising public money for promotion of their political fortunes" in the coming Lok Sabha election.

The Union Government, the Planning Commission, the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), the Election Commission and the CAG are four of the six respondents in the petition filed by the voluntary organisation.

It alleged that the Government, the Planning Commission, the Finance Secretary and the DAVP were utilising the tax payers' money "to embark upon a misadventure promoting a specious belief and the `India Shining' title, which had assumed the form of a publicity blitz, to benefit a particular political combine in the coming election."

They had "deliberately and in a mala fide manner permitted misuse of their machinery," including funds, by the ruling combine at the Centre, the petitioner alleged.

The Planning Commission had for the first time since its inception "deliberately and wilfully deviated" from the purpose for which it was set up and allowed itself to be "misused as a tool" in the hands of the ruling coalition at the Centre, it said.

The petitioner urged the court to direct the Government, the Planning Commission, the Finance Secretary, the Union Government and the DAVP to submit a full statement of accounts showing complete details of the funds, as well as to recover the spent amount from the beneficiary political parties and deposit the same with the exchequer.