• Common Cause Vs. Union Of India

  • IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

    CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

    WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 13 OF 2003

    COMMON CAUSE ………………………....PETITIONER (S)

    VERSUS

    UNION OF INDIA ……………………..RESPONDENT (S)

    WITH

    W.P. (C) No. 197 of 2004

    &

    W.P. (C) No.302 of 2012

    J U D G M E N T

    RANJAN GOGOI, J.

    1. Common Cause and Centre for Public Interest Litigation,

    two   registered   bodies,   have   approached   this   Court   under

    Article 32 of the Constitution seeking an appropriate writ to

    restrain   the   Union   of   India   and   all   State   Governments   from

    using public funds on Government advertisements which are

    primarily   intended   to   project   individual   functionaries   of   the

    Government or a political party.  The writ petitioners have also

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    prayed for laying down of appropriate guidelines by this Court

    to regulate Government action in the matter so as to prevent

    misuse/wastage   of   public   funds   in   connection   with   such

    2. In   the   above   stated   writ   petitions   the   writ   petitioners

    while   conceding   the   beneficial   effect   of   government

    advertisements   which   convey   necessary   information   to   the

    citizens   with   regard   to   various   welfare   and   progressive

    measures as also their rights and entitlements, however, had

    contended that in the garb of communicating with the people,

    in many instances, undue political advantage and mileage is

    sought   to   be   achieved   by   personifying   individuals   and

    crediting such individuals or political leaders (who are either

    from a political party or government functionaries) as   being

    responsible   for   various   government   achievements   and

    progressive plans.   According to the petitioners such practice

    becomes   rampant   on   the   eve   of   the   elections.   Such

    advertisements   not   only   result   in   gross   wastage   of   public

    funds but constitute misuse of governmental powers besides

    derogating   the   fundamental   rights   of   a   large   section   of   the

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    citizens as guaranteed by Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution

    of India.

    3. The writ petitions, filed as public interest litigations, were

    resisted by the Union of India primarily on the ground that the

    issues   sought   to   be   raised   pertain   to   governmental   policies

    and   executive   decisions   in   respect   of   which   it   may   not   be

    appropriate   for   this   Court   to   lay   down   binding   guidelines

    under Article 142.  The decision of this Court in Manzoor Ali

    Khan   &   Anr.  Vs.  Union   of   India   &   Ors.1  and   a

    pronouncement   of   the   Delhi   High   Court   in  Umesh Mohan

    Sethi Vs. Union of India & Anr.2 have been relied upon by

    the Union in support of its above stated stand.

    4. The issues arising in the writ petitions were considered

    by this Court in an earlier round of exhaustive hearings. By

    order   dated   23.04.2014,   this   Court,   on   consideration   of   the

    respective   stands   of   the   parties   and   by   relying   on   the

    principles laid down in the decisions specifically referred to in

    the   aforesaid   order   dated   23.04.2014,  inter  alia,   held   that

    there   is   no   dispute   that   “primary   cause   of   government

    1 (2014) 7 SCC 321

    2 WP (C) No.2926 of 2012 decided on 12.12.2012

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    advertisement is to use public funds to inform the public of

    their rights, obligations, and entitlements as well as to explain

    Government policies, programmes, services and initiatives.”  It

    was   further   held   that   only   such   government   advertisements

    which do not fulfil the above requisites will fall foul of the area

    of permissible advertisements.   This Court acknowledged the

    fact that the dividing line between permissible advertisements

    that are a part of government messaging and advertisements

    that are “politically motivated” may at times gets blurred.   As

    the materials laid before the Court by the parties were found

    to be inadequate for the purpose of evolving what would be the

    best practices keeping in view the prevailing scenario in other

    jurisdictions across the globe, this Court felt the necessity of

    constituting   a   Committee   consisting   of   (1)   Prof.   (Dr.)   N.R.

    Madhava Menon, former Director, National Judicial Academy,

    Bhopal   (2)   Mr.   T.K.   Viswanathan,   former   Secretary   General,

    Lok Sabha and (3) Mr. Ranjit Kumar, Senior Advocate to go

    into the matter and submit a report to the Court.

    5. In terms of the order of this Court, the Committee was

    duly constituted  and after full deliberations  in the matter, a

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    report had been submitted by the Committee suggesting a set

    of guidelines for approval of this Court.   It is the plea of the

    petitioner that the said guidelines should be approved by this

    Court   and   directions   be   issued   under   Article   142   of   the

    Constitution   of   India   for   enforcement   of   the   said   guidelines

    until an appropriate legislation in this regard is brought into

    effect by the Parliament.

    6. The   contents   of   the   guidelines   suggested   by   the   court

    appointed Committee may be usefully extracted hereinbelow:-“GUIDELINES ON CONTENT REGULATION OF

    GOVERNMENT ADVERTISING

    (1) These   Guidelines   shall   be   called   the   Government

    Advertisement   (Content   Regulation)   Guidelines

    (2) They shall come into force with effect from......

    2. APPLICATION:

    (1) These Guidelines shall apply to all Government

    advertisements   other   than   Classified

    (2) These Guidelines shall apply to the content of

    all Government Advertising till a suitable legislation

    is enacted by the Government to prevent the misuse

    of public funds on advertisements to gain political

    mileage   as   distinct   from   legitimate   Government

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    (3) These Guidelines shall apply to all –

    (a)   institutions of Government;

    (b) public sector undertakings;

    (c) local   bodies   and   other   autonomous

    bodies/organizations established under a

    3. DEFINITIONS:

    In   these   Guidelines   unless   the   context   otherwise

    requires:

    (a)   “Classified   Advertisements”   include   public

    notices,   tenders,   recruitment   notices,   statutory

    (b) “DAVP Guidelines” means the existing guidelines

    of   the   Directorate   of   Advertising   and   Visual

    Publicity   of   the   Ministry   of   Information   and

    Broadcasting   dealing   with   the   eligibility   and

    empanelment   procedures   and   rates   of   payment

    and such other matters;

    (c) “Government” means Central Government, State

    Governments/Union   Territory   Administrations

    and   also   includes   local   bodies,   public   sector

    undertakings   and   other   autonomous

    bodies/organisations   established   under   a

    (d) “Government   advertising”   means   any   message,

    conveyed   and   paid   for   by   the   government   for

    placement   in   media   such   as   newspapers,

    television,   radio,   internet,   cinema   and   such

    other,   media   but   does   not   include   classified

    advertisements; and includes both copy (written

    text/audio)   and   creatives   (visuals/video/multi

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    media)   put   out   in   print,   electronic,   outdoor   or

    digital media.

    OBJECTS:

    The objects of these Guidelines are:-(a) to   prevent   arbitrary   use   of   public   funds   for

    advertising   by   public   authorities   to   project   particular

    personalities,   parties   or   governments   without   any

    attendant public interest.

    (b) neither to belittle the need nor to deny the authority

    of the Union and State Governments and its agencies to

    disseminate information necessary for public to know on

    the policies and programmes of Government but only to

    exclude the possibility of any misuse of public funds on

    advertisement   campaigns   in   order   to   gain   political

    mileage by the political establishment;

    (c) to address the gap in the existing DAVP Guidelines

    which only deal with the eligibility and empanelment of

    newspapers/journals   or   other   media,   their   rates   of

    payment,   and   such   like   matters   and   not   on   how   to

    regulate the content of Government advertisements;

    (d) to ensure that “all government activities satisfy the

    test  of   reasonableness   and   public   interest,   particularly

    while dealing with public funds and property”;

    (e) to   ensure   that   government   messaging   is   well

    co-ordinate, effectively managed in the best democratic

    traditions   and   is   responsive   to   the   diverse   information

    needs of the public.

    5. GOVERNMENT   ADVERTISEMENT   TO   INFORM

    CITIZENS

    Subject to these Guidelines Government may place

    advertisements   or   purchase   advertising   space   or

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    time in any medium to inform citizens about their

    rights   and   responsibilities,   about   government

    policies,   programmes,   services   or   initiatives,   or

    about   dangers   or   risks   to   public   health,   safety   or

    the environment.

    6. THE   FIVE   PRINCIPLES   OF   CONTENT

    REGULATION:

    While   placing   advertisements   or   purchasing

    advertising   space   in   any   media,   the   Government

    shall be guided by the following principles, namely:-(1) Advertising   Campaigns   to   be   related   to

    Government responsibilities:

    While   it   is   the   duty   of   the   Government   to

    provide the public with timely, accurate, clear,

    objective   and   complete   information   about   its

    policies,   programmes,   services   and   initiatives

    since   the   public   has   a   right   to   such

    information,   the   content   of   government

    advertisements   should   be   relevant   to   the

    governments’   constitutional   and   legal

    obligations  as  well as the  citizens’ rights and

    (2) Advertisement   materials   should   be

    presented   in   an   objective,   fair   and

    accessible manner and be designed to meet

    the objectives of the campaign:

    (i) The material shall be presented in a fair

    and   objective   manner   and   shall   be

    capable   of   fulfilling   the   intended

    objectives;

    (ii) Government   shall   exercise   due   caution

    while   deciding   the   content,   layout,   size

    and design of the message including the

    target area and the creative requirement

    of   the   intended   communication   in   order

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    to   ensure   that   the   maximum   reach   and

    impact   are   achieved   in   the   most   cost

    effective manner;

    (iii) Content of advertisement must enable the

    recipients   of   the   information   to

    distinguish   between   facts   and   analysis

    and where information is presented as a

    fact, it should be accurate and verifiable;

    (iv) Pre-existing   policies,   products,   services

    and initiatives should not be presented as

    new unless there has been a substantial

    change   or   modification   of   such   policies,

    products or services;

    (v) Content of advertisement should provide

    information   in   a   manner   that

    accommodates   special   needs   of

    disadvantaged   individuals   or   groups

    identified   as   being   within   the   target

    audience;

    (vi) Multiple formats may be used to ensure

    equal access;

    (vii) Every effort shall be made to pre-test the

    material in case of large scale campaign

    with target audiences.

    (3) Advertisement materials should be objective and

    not directed at promoting political interests of

    ruling party:

    (i) Display   material   must   be   presented   in

    objective   language   and   be   free   of   political

    argument or partisan standpoint:

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    (ii) Government   advertising   shall   maintain

    political   neutrality   and   avoid   glorification   of

    political personalities and projecting a positive

    impression of the party in power or a negative

    impression   of   parties   critical   of   the

    (iii) Advertisement materials must not –

    (a)  Mention the party in government by name;

    (b)   directly   attack   the   views   or   actions   of

    others in opposition;

    (c)   include   party   political   symbol   or   logo   or

    flag;

    (d)   aim   to   influence   public   support   for   a

    political party, candidate for election; or

    (e)   refer   to   link   to   the   websites   of   political

    parties or politicians.

    (iv) Government   advertisement   materials   should

    avoid photographs of political leaders and if it

    is   felt   essential   for   effective   Government

    messaging,   only   the   photographs   of   the

    President/Prime   Minster   or   Governor/Chief

    Minister should be used;

    (v) Government advertisements shall not be used

    at   patronizing   media   houses   or   aimed   at

    receiving favourable reporting for the party or

    person in power

    (4) Advertisement Campaigns be justified and

    undertaken   in   an   efficient   and

    cost-effective manner:

    (a) Since it is the responsibility of government to

    safeguard   the   trust   and   confidence   in   the

    integrity and impartiality of public services and

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    hence it should be the policy of governments to

    use   public   funds   in   such   a   manner   as   to

    obtain maximum value for taxpayers’ money;

    (b) Advertisement   Campaigns   must   be   justified

    and   undertaken   in   an   efficient   and

    cost-effective manner;

    (c) The Government shall –

    (i) decide and announce beforehand, a list of

    personalities   on   whose   birth   or   death

    anniversaries,   advertisements   could   be

    released   every   year   and   specify   which

    Ministry/Department   could   release   the

    same;

    (ii) avoid   the   issue   of   multiple

    advertisements   by   different   departments

    and   PSUs   of   the   same   Government   in

    Commemorative   Advertisements   and

    shall issue a single advertisement only;

    (d) Though   advertising   by   governments   should

    remain regulated all the time, it is particularly

    important   to   scrupulously   follow   these

    principles before and during the elections.  As

    far   as   possible,   during   the   period   prior   to

    elections, only those advertisements required

    by   law   (such   as   public   health   and   safety

    advisories or job and contract advertisements)

    alone be released by governments;

    (e) Advertisement campaigns should only be need

    based; and

    (f) In   case   of   large   volume   advertisement

    campaigns, post-campaign impact assessment

    is   necessary   to   be   included   in   the   planning

    process itself and shall identify the indicators

    to   measure   success   when   the   campaign   has

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    (5) Government advertising must comply with

    legal requirements and financial regulations and

    procedures:

    Governments   shall   ensure   that   all   Advertisements

    comply with:-(i) relevant   laws   regarding   privacy,   intellectual

    property   rights,   election   laws   and   consumer

    protection  laws   apart  from   laws  in  respect  of

    broadcasting and media; and

    (ii) copyright   laws   and   ownership   rights

    associated with works subject to copyright are

    fully respected.

    COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT:

    (1) The Government shall appoint an Ombudsman who

    shall   be   an   eminent   expert   independent   of   the

    Government   to   receive   complaints   of   violations   of

    Guidelines and to recommend action in accordance

    with the Guidelines.

    (2)   Heads   of   government   departments   and   agencies

    shall   be   responsible   for   ensuring   compliance   with

    these   Guidelines   and   shall   follow   a   procedure   of

    certification   of   compliance   before   advertisements

    are released to the media.

    (3) As   part   of   the   performance   audit   of   the

    Ministry/Department/Agency –

    (a)   there   shall   be   separate   audit   of   the

    compliance of Advertisement Guidelines by the

    Ministry/Department/Agency concerned; and

    (b) The   annual   report   of   such

    ministry/department/agency shall publish the

    findings of such audit and the money spent on

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    (4) The regulatory bodies of print and electronic media

    will   be   within   their   powers   to   impose   sanctions

    against   such   media   groups   acting   against   these

    Guidelines   in   seeking   or   obtaining   government

    8. GENERAL:

    (1)  These   Guidelines   shall   be   in   addition   to   and

    not   in   derogation   of   the   existing   Guidelines

    which   are   in   place   under   the   existing

    Advertisement Policy of Government.

    (2) These   Guidelines   are   equally   applicable   to

    State Governments and its agencies.  The State

    Governments shall undertake amendments to

    whatever policies they have in this regard and

    observe   the   Guidelines   strictly   in   letter   and

    (3) The   Ombudsman   may   recommend   suitable

    changes   to   the   Guidelines   to   deal   with   new

    circumstances and situations.

    (4) The Government shall take necessary steps to

    initiate   necessary   legislation   on   the   subject,

    given   its   importance   for   democracy,   human

    rights and good governance.”

    *******

    Whether   the   guidelines   recommended   should

    commend   acceptance   and   if   so   whether   the

    same should be made operative and enforceable

    under Article 142 of the Constitution.

    7. In   the   earlier   order   dated   23rd  April,   2014,   this   Court,

    after holding that reasonableness and fairness consistent with

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    Article 14 of the Constitution would be the ultimate test of all

    State   activities   proceeded   to   hold   that   the   deployment   of

    public   funds   in   any   Government   activity   which   is   not

    connected   with   a   public   purpose   would   justify   judicial

    intervention.  We would like to say something more.

    Part IV of the Constitution is as much a guiding light for

    the   Judicial   organ   of   the   State   as   the   Executive   and   the

    Legislative arms,  all  three  being  integral  parts  of  the  “State”

    within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution.3-4 A policy

    certainly cannot be axed for its alleged failure to comply with

    any   of   the   provisions   of   Part   IV.     Neither   can   the   Courts

    charter a course, merely on the strength of the provisions of

    the said Part of the Constitution, if the effect thereof would be

    to lay down a policy.  However, in a situation where the field is

    open and uncovered by any government policy, to guide and

    control everyday governmental action, surely, in the exercise of

    jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution, parameters

    can   be   laid   down   by   this   Court   consistent   with   the   objects

    enumerated   by   any   of   the   provisions   of   Part   IV.     Such   an

    3 Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar & Ors. Vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors. –AIR 1967 SC 1=(1966) 3 SCR 744

    4 Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru Vs. State of Kerala & Anr. – (1973) 4 SCC 225 (Para 1703)

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    exercise would be naturally time bound i.e. till the Legislature

    or   the   Executive,   as   the   case   may   be,   steps   in   to   fulfill   its

    constitutional   role   and   authority   by   framing   an   appropriate

    8. Article   38   and   39   of   the   Constitution   enjoin   upon   the

    State a duty to consistently endeavour to achieve social and

    economic  justice to the  teeming millions  of the  country who

    even today live behind an artificially drawn poverty line.  What

    can be the surer way in the march forward than by ensuring

    avoidance of unproductive expenditure of public funds.   This

    is   how   we  view  the   present  matter   and   feel   the  necessity  of

    exercise   of   our   jurisdiction   under   Article   142     of   the

    Constitution to proceed further.

    9. It is neither possible nor feasible or even necessary to try

    and   encompass   the   myriad   situations   where   government

    advertisements   are   issued.     Indeed,   the   situations   and

    circumstances;   events   and   occasions   on   which   government

    advertisements   are   issued   are   infinite.     Nevertheless,   an

    attempt can be made to arrive at a broad categorization for the

    purpose of an illustrative understanding.

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    Advertisements   highlighting   completion   of   a

    fixed period of the Government’s Tenure

    Governments at the Centre as well as in the States often

    bring out advertisements on completion of a number of days,

    months and years of governance.  In such advertisements, not

    only the ‘achievements’ are highlighted even the different tasks

    which   are   in   contemplation   are   enumerated.     By   way   of

    example   one   of   the   points   highlighted   may   be   supply   of

    electricity to each and every village.  Though the achievements

    of a Government should not be a matter of publicity and really

    ought to be a matter of perception to be felt by the citizens on

    the results achieved, such advertisements do have the effect of

    keeping   the   citizens   informed   of   the   government   functioning

    and therefore would be permissible.

    Advertisements announcing projects:

    On an everyday basis both the Government at the Centre

    as well as in different States issue advertisements announcing

    events   like   laying   of   the   foundation   of   different  development

    projects or the inauguration of projects completed. In many of

    such   advertisements   the   results   obtained   in   the   particular

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    field covered by the advertisement and the plan/targets for the

    future are highlighted.  Though such advertisements may look

    like  a  report card  of   the  Government  there   is   an  element  of

    informative   content   in   such   advertisements   inasmuch   as

    information is conveyed to the citizens as regards government

    programmes, policies and achievements.

    Advertisements   issued   on   the   occasion   of

    birth/death anniversaries and such other events:

    Government advertisements are issued in the memory of

    great   personalities   who   occupy   a   significant   place   in   our

    history, such as, the father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.

    While   such   persons   must   certainly   be   remembered,   what,

    however,   would   not   be   justified   is   several   similar,   if   not

    identical, advertisements issued by different Departments on

    the   same   occasion   as   is   happening   today.     One   single

    advertisement issued by a Central Agency should be enough to

    commemorate the anniversaries of the few acknowledged and

    undisputed public figures whose contribution to the National

    Cause cannot raise any dispute or debate.

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    Advertisement   issued   on   certain   other   occasions,   for

    instance, to mark the centenary year of the Patna High Court

    does not serve any purpose and must be avoided.  Institutions

    need   not   be   glorified.   They   must   earn   glory   by   contribution

    and work.

    Advertisements announcing policies and benefits

    for public:

    All advertisements that fall within this category would be

    in   public   interest.     Such   advertisements,   as   for   example   in

    respect of the National Savings Schemes informing the public

    about   benefits   under   the   Scheme,   are   purely   informational

    and   make   people   aware   of   their   rights   and   entitlements.

    Similarly, advertisements issued to generate public awareness

    would   also  be  justified   on  the   touchstone   of   public  interest.

    By way of illustration, an advertisement issued by the Ministry

    of   Health   and   Family   Welfare   informing   the   public   of

    preventable   disease,   safeguards   to   be   taken,   vaccination

    programmes for the children, etc. would be highly informative

    and, therefore, justified.

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    10. A connected facet of the matter which cannot be ignored

    is the power of the Government to give/award advertisements

    to   selected   media   houses   and   the   concomitant   issue   of

    freedom of press. Award of advertisements, naturally,  brings

    financial   benefit   to   the   particular   media   house/newspaper

    group. Patronization of any particular media house(s) must be

    avoided   and   award   of   advertisements   must   be   on   an   equal

    basis   to   all   newspapers   who   may,   however,   be   categorized

    depending upon their circulation.   The D.A.V.P. guidelines do

    not   deal   with   the   said   aspect   of   the   matter   and   hence   the

    necessity of incorporating the same in the present directions

    to ensure the independence, impartiality and the neutrality of

    the fourth estate which is vital to the growth and sustenance

    of democracy will have to be weighed and considered by us.

    11. An analysis of the  Draft Guidelines as prepared by the

    Committee set up by this Court in the case may now be made.

    The   applicability   of   these   Guidelines   is   to   all   Government

    advertisements   other   than   classifieds   and   in  all  mediums   of

    communication,   thereby   including   internet   advertising.   The

    objective   of   these   Guidelines   emphasize   the   Government’s

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    responsibility   to   disseminate   information   necessary   for   the

    public   to   know   about   the   policies   and   programmes   of

    Government. It principally spells out five principles to regulate

    the contents  of advertisements, namely,

    i)  advertising   campaigns   are   to   be   related   to

    government responsibilities,

    ii)  materials should be presented in an objective, fair

    and   accessible   manner   and   designed   to   meet

    objectives of the campaign,

    iii)  not   directed   at   promoting   political   interests   of   a

    Party,

    iv)  campaigns must be justified and undertaken in an

    efficient and cost-effective manner and

    v)  advertisements   must   comply   with   legal

    requirements   and   financial   regulations   and

    The five broad Content Regulations contained in the draft

    guidelines   framed   by   the   Committee   are   similar   to   the

    provisions     found   in   the   Australian   guidelines.     However,

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    under   each   broad   head   specific   regulatory   parameters   have

    been   indicated   which   seem   to   embody   what   would   be   good

    practices in the Indian context.

    12. While under the first head the requirement of conformity

    of   Government   advertisements   with   dissemination   of

    information relating to Government’s constitutional and legal

    obligations  and the corresponding rights and entitlements of

    citizens   is   being   stressed   upon,   under   the   second   head

    objective   presentation   of   the   materials   contained   in   an

    advertisement bearing in mind the target audience has been

    emphasized.    Under the third head, the Guidelines state that

    advertisement   materials   must   not:   (a)   mention   the   party   in

    government   by   its   name,   (b)   attack   the   views   or   actions   of

    other   parties   in   opposition,   (c)   include   any   party   symbol   or

    logo, (d) aim to influence public support for a political party or

    a   candidate for election or (e) refer or link to the websites of

    political   parties   or   politicians.   It   is   also   stated   in   the

    Guidelines that photographs of leaders should be avoided and

    only   the   photographs   of   the   President/   Prime   Minister   or

    Governor/   Chief   Minister   shall   be   used   for   effective

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    government   messaging.     The   fourth   head   deals   with   cost

    effectiveness of an advertisement campaign and measures to

    cut down avoidable expenses.  A somewhat restricted range of

    advertising   activity   on   the   eve   of   the   elections   is   also

    recommended.     Appointment   of   an   Ombudsman   to   hear

    complaints   of   violation   of   the   norms   and   to   suggest

    amendments   thereto   from   time   to   time   beside   special

    performance   audit   by   the   concerned   Ministries   is   also

    13. The Union Government and the State of Bihar have filed

    their responses to the guidelines suggested by the Committee.

    The State of Bihar suggests that some of the recommendations

    of   the   Committee,   details   of   which   need   not   be   noticed,   are

    somewhat   vague   and   require   a   more   precise   definition   or

    meaning.  The only aspect of the suggestions where the State

    has   responded   emphatically   is   with   regard   to   the

    recommendation to confine the  publication of photographs of

    the President and the Prime Minister of the country and the

    Governor and the Chief Minister of the State.  According to the

    State of Bihar such a restriction should not be imposed.

    2

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    14. The   Union   in   its   response   to   the   guidelines   of   the

    Committee   has   been   more   categorical   in   suggesting   certain

    changes as well as deletion of some of the recommendations.

    It  will,  therefore,  be   necessary   to  specifically  notice   the   said

    objections raised by the Union.

    Content   of   the

    Recommendations

    Response of the Union

    (1)  Object of Guidelines

    (a)     To prevent arbitrary use

    of public funds for advertising

    by public authorities.

    The   meaning   of   the   word

    “arbitrary”   according   to   the

    Union   needs   to   be   more

    specifically defined.

    (b)   To   exclude   the   possibility

    of any misuse of public funds

    on advertisement campaign in

    order to gain political mileage

    by   the   political

    According   to   the   Union   the

    expression   “political

    mileage”   is   inappropriate

    and should be deleted.

    (2)   5 Principles of Content Regulation

    (a)   Clause (vii) under the 2nd

    point   of   the   5   principles

    recommended   by   the

    Committee   –   Every   effort

    should be made to pre-test the

    material in case of large scale

    campaign     with   target

    According to the Union this

    should   be   done   only   when

    the   same   is   feasible   and

    whenever   public   interest   so

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    (b)   Clause   (c)(i)   under   the   4th

    point   of   the   5   principles   of

    Content Regulation states that

    “The Government shall decide

    and   announce   beforehand,   a

    list   of   personalities   on   whose

    birth   or   death   anniversaries,

    advertisements   could   be

    released   every   year   and

    specify   which

    Ministry/Department   could

    release the same.

    According   to   the   Union   the

    words “decide and announce

    beforehand”   may   be   deleted

    as   the   same   is   not   feasible

    since   issuance   of

    advertisement depends on a

    host   of   factors   like

    availability   of   funds,   last

    minute   changes   and   the

    priorities of the government.

    (c) Clause (d) of the 4th point of

    the   5   principles   of   Content

    Regulation   states  that  “as   far

    as possible, during the period

    prior   to   elections,   only   those

    advertisements   required   by

    law (such as public health and

    safety   advisories   or   job   and

    contract advertisements) alone

    be   released   by   the

    According   to   the   Union

    advertisement   that   serve

    public   interest   may   be

    issued at any point of time.

    (3) Ombudsman

    The   suggestion   of   the

    Committee   with   regard   to

    appointment   of   the

    Ombudsman   is   in   the

    following   terms:   “The

    Government   shall   appoint   an

    Ombudsman who shall be an

    eminent expert independent of

    the   Government   to   receive

    complaints   of   violations   of

    Guidelines and to recommend

    action in accordance with the

    Guidelines.”

    The   Union   objects   to   the

    same   and   seeks   deletion   of

    the said recommendation as

    also   the   recommendation

    with   regard   to   separate

    performance   audit   of   each

    Ministry   and   publication   of

    the   result   of   such   audit.

    According   to   the   Union   the

    Government   has   inbuilt

    machinery for redressal and

    for audit purposes.

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    Page 25

     

    15. A consideration of the objections filed by the Union would

    go   to   show   that   the   Union   seriously   disagrees   with   the

    recommendations of the Committee in respect of the following

    matters:

    (1) restricted   publication   of   photographs   of   the

    Government   functionaries   and   political   leaders

    alongwith the advertisement etc.

    (2) appointment of an Ombudsman

    (3) the   recommendation   with   regard   to   performance

    audit by each Ministry.

    (4) embargo   on   advertisements   on   the   eve   of   the

    16. The   rest   of   the   objections   are   really   in   the   nature   of

    suggestions which having been considered we are of the view

    that incorporation of the said suggestions made by the Union

    or otherwise would not make any substantial difference to the

    impact   and   effect   of   the   said   recommendations.     It   is   the

    recommendations   with   regard   to   the   publication   of

    photographs;   appointment   of   Ombudsman;   carrying   out

    independent   audit   and   embargo   on   advertisements   during

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    election time that will have to be specifically dealt with in some

    17. The   remaining   recommendations   of   the   Committee

    appear   to   be   comprehensive   and   based   on   an   analytical

    approach of the best practices prevailing in other jurisdictions.

    The   said   recommendations,   in   our   considered   view,   would

    serve public interest by enabling dissemination of information

    and spreading awareness amongst the citizens not only of the

    government   policies;   achievements   made   and   targets   to   be

    reached   but   also   the   rights   and   entitlements   of   the   citizens

    including the availability of a host of welfare measures.     The

    said   recommendations,   therefore,   commend   to   the   Court   for

    acceptance and are accordingly accepted.

    18. At this juncture we may very briefly deal with the with

    the situation prevailing in other jurisdictions across the globe.

    While, undoubtedly there   can be no blind adherence to the

    practices   followed   in   other   jurisdictions   as   what   may   be

    appropriate to another country may not be ideal in the Indian

    context,   the correct approach will be to discern some of the

    best practices prevailing in such jurisdictions and thereafter to

    test the relevance of the same to our own country.  Though the

    2

    Page 27

    recitals contained in the Report of the Committee do mention a

    consideration   of   such   good   practices   prevailing   in   other

    jurisdictions   there   is   however   no   discussion   or   even   an

    indication   of   the   precise   contents   of   the   practices   that   were

    found by the Committee to be in existence in other countries.

    It   has   therefore   become   necessary   for   us   to   deal   with   the

    matter   though   very   briefly.     In  this   regard  we   may  usefully,

    though   illustratively,   make   a   reference   to   certain   practices

    prevailing   in   Canada,   United   Kingdom,   New   Zealand   and

    19. Insofar as Canada(Ontario) is concerned, it appears that

    the   object   of   issuing   a   government   advertisement   is   :  (i)   to

    inform the public of current or proposed government policies,

    programs or services available to them; (ii) to inform the public

    of  their  rights  and   responsibilities  under the   law  and  (iii)  to

    encourage   or   discourage   specific   social   behaviour   in   public

    interest.   Such  advertisements  are  not  to include  the  name,

    voice or image of any functionary of the State and the primary

    objective   of   an   advertisement   ought   not   to   be   to   foster   a

    positive   impression   of   the   ruling   government   or   a   negative

    2

    Page 28

    impression   of   any   person,   group   or   party   critical   of   the

    20. In some of the foreign jurisdictions there is a mechanism

    for review of advertisements on fixed parameters even before

    they   are   published   and   publication/issuance   thereof   only

    upon   passing   of   the   required   test.     In   Australia   and   United

    Kingdom, there is an added emphasis on the cost effectiveness

    of advertising campaigns.  In Australia, advertising campaigns

    of   more   than   a   particular   pecuniary   value   i.e.   1million

    Australian  dollars  require to undergo a cost benefit analysis

    wherein the best options to achieve the intended objective of

    the   campaign   has   to   be   determined   before   launching   the

    21. The   good   practices   adopted   in   other   jurisdictions   as

    noticed   above   do   find   adequate   reflection   in   the

    recommendations  of the Committee which further fortify our

    conviction to adopt the same.

    22. This   will   require   the   Court   to   consider   the   different

    aspects of a government advertisement campaign highlighted

    earlier on which we have reserved our comments.  The first is

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    Page 29

    with regard to publication of photographs of functionaries of

    the   State   and   political   leaders   alonwith   the   advertisement

    issued.     There   can   be   no   manner   of   doubt   that   one

    government advertisement or the other coinciding with some

    event   or   occasion   is   published   practically   every   day.

    Publication of the photograph of an individual be a State  or

    party functionary not only has the tendency of associating that

    particular individual with either the achievement(s) sought to

    be highlighted or being the architect of the benefits in respect

    of   which   information   is   sought   to   be   percolated.

    Alternatively, programmes/targets for the future as advertised

    carry   the   impression   of   being   associated   with   the   particular

    individual(s).       Photographs,   therefore,   have   the   potential   of

    developing the personality cult and the image of a one or a few

    individuals   which   is   a   direct   antithesis   of   democratic

    23. The   legitimate   and   permissible   object   of   an

    advertisement,   as   earlier   discussed,   can   always   be   achieved

    without   publication   of   the   photograph   of   any   particular

    functionary   either   in   the   State   of   a   political   party.     We   are,

    2

    Page 30

    therefore,   of   the   view   that   in   departure   to   the   views   of   the

    Committee   which   recommended   permissibility   of   publication

    of the photographs of the President and Prime Minister of the

    country and Governor or Chief Minister of the State alongwith

    the advertisements, there should be an exception only in the

    case of the President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of the

    country   who   may   themselves   decide   the   question.

    Advertisements   issued   to   commemorate   the   anniversaries   of

    acknowledged personalities like the father of the nation would

    of course carry the photograph of the departed leader.

    24. Insofar   as   the   recommendation   with   regard   to   the

    appointment of Ombudsman is concerned, we are of the view

    that for ironing out the creases that are bound to show from

    time to time in the implementation of the present directions

    and   to   oversee   such   implementation   the   government   should

    constitute   a   three   member   body   consisting   of   persons   with

    unimpeachable   neutrality   and   impartiality   and   who   have

    excelled   in   their   respective   fields.     We   could   have   but   we

    refrain   from   naming   the   specific   persons   and   leave   the   said

    exercise to be performed by the Union Government.

    3

    Page 31

    25. Insofar as performance/special audit is concerned, we do

    not feel the necessity of any such special audit inasmuch as

    the   machinery   available   is   adequate   to   ensure   due

    performance as well as accountability and proper utilization of

    public money.

    26. If Government advertisements adhere to the objects and

    parameters   mentioned   above   we   do  not  feel   the   necessity   of

    imposing a special curb on government advertisements on the

    eve of the elections, as suggested by the Committee.

    27. In an earlier part of the present order we had indicated

    the   power   of   the   purse   that   Government   advertisements

    invariably   involve.     Needless   to   say   the   concepts   of   fairness

    and   even   dispensation   to   all   media/publishing   houses   will

    have to be maintained by the Government be it at the Centre

    or the States.

    28. We close the matters on the aforesaid note by approving

    and   adopting   the  recommendations   of  the   Committee  except

    what has been specifically indicated above with regard to

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    Page 32

    (1) publication   of   photographs   of   the   Government

    functionaries   and   political   leaders   alongwith   the

    advertisement(s).

    (2) appointment of an Ombudsman

    (3) the   recommendation   with   regard   to   performance

    audit by each Ministry.

    (4) embargo   on   advertisements   on   the   eve   of   the

     

    29.   We also make it clear that the present directions issued

    under Article 142 of the Constitution cannot be comprehensive

    and there are several aspects of the matter which may have

    escaped our attention at this stage.  In this regard, we would

    like   to   clarify   that   it   is   not   the   intention   of   the   Court   to

    attempt to lay down infallible and all comprehensive directions

    to cover the issue at hand.  The gaps, if any, we are confident

    would   be   filled   up   by   the   executive   arm   of   the   government

    itself inasmuch as the attainment of constitutional goals and

    values enshrined in Part IV of the Constitution is the conjoint

    3

    Page 33

    responsibility of the three organs of the State i.e. legislative,

    executive and the judiciary, as earlier discussed.

    ………………………………J.

    [RANJAN GOGOI]

    ……………………………J.

    [PINAKI CHANDRA GHOSE]

    NEW DELHI,

    MAY 13, 2015.

     

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