Delhi Government’s publicity wing, the Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP), has issued a recovery notice to Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, in his capacity as the National Convenor of the Aam Aadmi Party, ordering him to reimburse a sum of Rs.163.62 crore within 10 days. As per the notice, AAP has ‘mis-spent’ over 163 crores on advertisements which allegedly violate Supreme Court Guidelines.
According to media sources, of the total figure that is to be deposited by AAP, Rs 99.31 crore amount to the principal amount spent till March, 2017 and the rest constitutes an interest of Rs 64.31 crore .Citing the 2015 guidelines, the Directorate of Information and Publicity has directed The Aam Aadmi Party to pay the amount to the state exchequer within ten days only. The department also warned that in case the party fails to deposit the sum, its headquarters might be sealed.
Earlier, in December 2022, Delhi’s Lieutenant-Governor, VK Saxena had also directed Chief Secretary, Naresh Kumar to recover a sum of Rs 97 crore from the party on account of publishing political ads as government advertisements. However, the order was refuted by Aam Aadmi Party leader, Saurabh Bhardjwaj stating that, “the LG has no power to issue such orders.”
Meanwhile, this time around, the news about the recovery notice has immediately triggered a political rift between the Aam Aadmi Party and the BJP. On its part, the AAP’s National Secretary, Pankaj Gupta has written to the secretary of the Directorate of Information & Publicity, seeking the copies of those advertisements whose cost the department plans to recover.
Responding to the notice, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia also alleged that “The BJP has, over the last 7 years, been unconstitutionally exercising control over the city’s bureaucracy through the LG.” Today, Alice Vaz, an IAS officer, is threatening Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to pay Rs. 163 crore under pressure from the BJP.” Sisodia added that, “Instead of ensuring quality work for the betterment of the citizens of Delhi, the BJP wants to target ministers so that they don’t do their work.”
He further added that “Advertisements of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s chief ministers in various states are published in newspapers in Delhi. Will the BJP’s chief ministers be asked to reimburse these expenses? Is this why the BJP wants to retain unconstitutional control over Delhi officers?”
Meanwhile, BJP’s North-East Delhi MP, Manoj Tiwari accused the Aam Aadmi Party of having looted the UT of the funds that were meant for the welfare of its citizens. He said that “This is a scam. The advertisement scam of the AAP Delhi Government. We demand that AAP’s bank account immediately be frozen. The party has abused government funds to shine its own face.” He added that by using these ads in and outside Delhi, AAP is publicising its views on matters related to other states and is targeting the Opposition.
Who controls administrative services in Delhi?
Ever since the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Ammendment) Act was passed in 2021, Delhi’s elected government, that is the AAP government, has been left virtually powerless. Under this Act, “government” now means the Lieutanant Governor.
After the Act officially came into force, Delhi’s Government has engaged in a legal battle with the Centre over who gets the power to manage administrative services. It has been argued by the AAP Governmentt before a constitution bench that the Government cannot function unless it is vested with the power to create new posts, make appointments and make transfers as need be. Under Article 239AA(3), the power to make laws with respect to all but three entries, viz., public order, police and land, in the state list are granted to the Delhi Legislative Assembly.
The Union government had filed a plea to refer the matter to a Constitutional bench seeking a holistic interpretation of the Article.
Meanwhile, BJP MP, Manoj Tiwari, has claimed on Thursday that Kejriwal only wasted public money to improve his image and that of the party.