Delhi L-G orders AAP to pay Rs 97 cr for govt funded political ads, party calls it ‘stupidity’

Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena on Tuesday directed the chief secretary to recover Rs 97 crore from the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for political advertisements it published as government ads. L-G Saxena cited the ruling party violated the orders of the Supreme Court, Delhi HC order of 2016 and the Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising’s (CCRGA) order of 2016.

Identifying specific advertisements published by the government which were in “stark violation of guidelines”, CCRGA had in 2016 directed the Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) to quantify the amounts spent by it on such advertisements and recover the same from the ruling AAP, they added.

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The DIP quantified that Rs 97,14,69,137 had been spent or booked on account of “non-conforming advertisements”. “Of this, while payments amounting to over Rs 42.26 crore had already been released by the DIP, Rs 54.87 crore for advertisements published were still pending disbursal,” a source said.

The DIP in 2017 directed the AAP to pay over Rs 42.26 crore to the state exchequer immediately and directly pay the pending amount of Rs 54.87 crore to the advertising agencies or publications concerned within 30 days. However, even after over 5 years, the AAP has not complied with the order issued by the DIP.

The L-G has additionally asked to audit the finances of Shabdarth – a public agency formed by the Kejriwal government. Shabdarth is currently manned by 35 individuals on a contractual or outsourced basis, out of the total sanctioned strength of 38 officials. The agency was supposed to be manned by government servants, instead of private individuals. The L-G has now ordered that Shabdarth will now be manned by government officials and not by contractual and outsourced employees.

‘L-G has no power’

Reacting to the orders issued by the L-G, AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj said, “The L-G has no power to issue such orders”. “The BJP is saying why the advertisements of the Delhi government are being published outside Delhi Newspapers of the last one month have been brought out. There is no such state of BJP whose advertisement has not been published in Delhi,” said Bhardwaj.He added, “The L-G of BJP is working under the guise of fake headlines. He is now giving the argument of a BJP spokesperson in his letter”.

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