Chandigarh June 20:
Despite clear instructions from the Punjab and Haryana High Court, municipal bodies in the state continue to use photographs of political leaders on tender and auction notices that appear in newspapers.
On June 14, various newspapers carried an auction notice issued by the Jalandhar Improvement Trust that had prominent pictures of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal along with Minister for Local Bodies Manoranjan Kalia and Chairman of the trust Baljit Singh Neela.
Not just the municipal bodies, other departments of the state government, too, seem to have no problem in wasting public money in issuing advertisements that have large pictures of the political leaders even when the content of the advertisement has no bearing to these politicians.
On June 15, an appeal was issued by the Agriculture Department exhorting farmers in the state not to sow the PAU 201 variety of paddy. This was carried in several newspapers complete with the picture of the Chief Minister, the Agriculture Minister, Sucha Singh Langah, and the Chief Parliamentary Secretary Agriculture, Sohan Singh.
In January last year, the Patiala Improvement Trust issued an advertisement in various newspapers calling for bidders for its property. This advertisement also carried pictures of the Chief Minister, the Deputy Chief Minister, the Local Bodies Minister and the Chairman of the trust. In December 2008, the Municipal Corporation, Jalandhar, had issued a tender notice with photographs of politicians on the top.
In 2006, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court by city-based advocate HC Arora, following which the Division Bench of the then Chief Justice HS Bedi and Justice Ranjit Singh had ordered Punjab and Haryana to draft a policy to reduce the expenditure of public money on advertisements that eulogised leaders or political parties especially when they had no connection with the administration.
“The Division Bench had asked advocates-general of both the states to get instructions as to the policy that states wished to adopt in such matters so that the democratic process may proceed without any strain on the public exchequer,” said Arora. Following these orders, both Punjab and Haryana had given undertakings to the court that tender notices and auction notices issued by the government would not carry pictures of any politician.
The Punjab government had further told the court that the Chief Secretary had issued a circular to all departments, boards and corporations to stop this practice immediately. However, in violation of this undertaking and inviting contempt, the state government seems to have again succumbed to eulogising its political bosses through government advertisements.
In a statement issued here today, Congress MLA from Bholath, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, said, “There couldn't be a lower level of cheap political gimmickry and sycophancy than displayed in these advertisements. The Congress expects the immediate interference of the CM so that such politically motivated advertisements at the expense of the exchequer are not repeated in future.”