Delhi government spent Rs.22.33 crore on ads, HC told

New Delhi: The Delhi government on Monday told the Delhi High Court that since the May 13 order of the Supreme Court ruling that taxpayers’ money cannot be spent to build the image of political leaders, it has spent Rs.22.33 crore on advertisements related to its policies.

Filing an affidavit before a division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath, Delhi government counsel Raman Duggal denied the allegation that huge amounts were being spent on advertisements glorifying Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Aarty (AAP).

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The government said it was spending Rs.8 crore per month on advertisements to spread “awareness about government policies, programmes, activities, achievements, services and initiatives amongst the public since the public has a right to such information”.

The bench had earlier asked the Kejriwal government to file a status report with details of money spent by it on advertisements following the Supreme Court direction.

The affidavit of the Delhi government said the total budget for Delhi was Rs.40,000 crore, out of which Rs.523 crore was earmarked for information and publicity — which comes to 1.518 percent.

From the date of the Supreme Court judgement, a sum of Rs.22,33,24,659 has been spent on print, electronic media as well as outdoor publicity, which works out to approximately Rs.8 crore per month, which was a “very meagre amount” compared to the budget of Rs.523 crore.

The city government’s response came on a bunch of PILs, including a plea by Congress leader Ajay Maken, seeking restraint on advertisements allegedly glorifying Kejriwal and the AAP.

Maken, who heads the Delhi unit of the Congress, also sought direction to restrain the Delhi government from publishing Kejriwal’s name in any of its current or future advertisements.

The plea said the act of the government was contrary to the ruling of the Supreme Court which called the development of personality cult of political functionaries at the cost of public money as an “antithesis to democracy”.

The court posted the matter for August 5.

Meanwhile, another bench of the high court also sought the Delhi government’s response on a similar plea by August 6.