8 December 2022

New Delhi : The practice by state governments of advertising their performances in other states particularly in poll – bound states has come under the judicial scanner with the Supreme Court on Monday agreeing to hear a PIL alleging that such publicity misuse of public funds for political consideration . The PIL also sought a ban on ‘ advertorials ‘ published by governments ” dressed upaseditorial content .

Can state govt be barred
Can state govt be barred

Though a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hima Kohli was initially reluctant to entertain the PIL filed by an NGO saying that governments ‘ advertising their performance and achievement was the heart and soul of democracy , it however is sued notice to the Centre after advocate Prashant Bhushan convinced the court that such advertise ments in other states was solely meant for political gains in that state by projecting one persovertisements . Bhushan gave an ex ample of Delhi’s AAP government using public fund of Delhi to give full – page advertisements on its handling of Covid – 19 in Gujarat and con tended that it was meant to boost the image of the party in the poll – bound state and is ” completely malafide and arbitrary and amounts to breach of trust , abuse of office ,violation of the directions / guidelines issued by this court “

” This is done with the sole intention and purpose of projecting personalities and promoting particular governments without any attendant public interest . The target audience , therefore , of advertisements that are funded by state governments are the residents of that state who are the beneficiaries of that government’s policies , achievements and welfare measures . Therefore , the exercise of rolling out advertisements outside the territory of the state is disproportionate , unreasonable , not need – based , arbitrary and does not amount to obtaining maximum value for the tax payer’s money , all of which are clear violations of the guidelines , ” the petitions said .

Bhushan said that the pocamlitical parties should fund such advertisement paigns and it should not be funded by public money . He also brought to the court’s notice that several governments across the country are publishing advertisements in the form of ‘ advertorials ‘ that are designed to be decepandtive and misleading against all journalistic ethics . ” Advertorials are disguised to look like real news and read like news articles . They are dressed up aseditorial content suggesting that someone else has endorsed it as opposed to advertisements . This is done to convey greater authority and persuasiveness . Implicit in advertorials is a certain amount of subterfuge . They lack readily visible markers and have no prominent dis claimers . Most of the time there are umbrella disclaimers on the front page only , the petition said .

The bench after a brief hearing issued notice to Centre and states seeking their response on the PIL.

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