Delhi’s lieutenant governor Anil Baijal has asked the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to pay up within a month Rs 97 crore of the public money the Kejriwal government spent on advertisements that violated Supreme Court’s guidelines.
They had not heard about the decision, an official with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office said on Wednesday, a day after Baijal asked chief secretary MM Kutty to initiate the process of recovery.
“Neither the chief minister, deputy chief minister or the party has been intimated. We cannot react until we are well informed about it,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The order could reignite tensions between the Kejriwal government and the Centre which ebbed a bit after Baijal took over as the L-G from Najeeb Jung.
With the municipal election less than a month away, the issue is likely to generate political heat.
Of the Rs 97 crore bill it ran up, the government has paid Rs 42 crore to ad agencies. The L-G has asked the chief secretary to get the amount reimbursed from the Aam Aadmi Party.
The party would pay the remaining Rs 55 crore directly to the ad agencies.
Baijal’s order came after a Union government-appointed three-member panel found the Kejriwal government guilty of “misusing” taxpayers’ money on advertisements and said the party should reimburse the funds.
The committee on content regulation of government advertising (CCRGA) forwarded its report to the Delhi chief secretary on September 19.
The committee, set up on the directions of the Supreme Court, had acted on a complaint of Congress leader Ajay Maken.
The Supreme Court on May 13, 2015 ruled that government ads would only carry photographs of the president, the prime minister and the Chief Justice of India. It barred ruling parties from putting pictures of their leaders in ads publicising welfare schemes.
Most of the advertisements in question came out after the ruling.
The Delhi government has also fallen foul of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the same issue. Earlier this month, the national auditor said the government spent Rs 29 crore in releasing advertisements outside Delhi, which was “beyond” its responsibility.
The CAG report, tabled in Delhi assembly on March 10, said another Rs 24 crore-worth of ads released by the government violated SC regulations.
The government rejected the report, with Kejriwal accusing the CAG of acting at the behest of the BJP.