New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the government to pro-actively disclose its policy on use of photographs of political leaders on advertisements.
Noting that the government has an obligation under Section IV of the RTI Act to pro-actively disclose its policy on such advertisements which bear photographs of political leaders, Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu has asked when it would start implementing it.
And, as campaigning is taken up in full swing for the Delhi Assembly polls, he also directed the Chief Secretary of Delhi to explain the proposed steps for implementing the recommendations of the Lokayukta of Delhi for "effectively preventing photo publicity of their political rulers".
"Especially when elections are almost happening every year regularly in one region or the other, with one in Delhi now, the government has to expedite the disclosure and that policy should be duly publicised otherwise through advertisements," Acharyulu said.
He directed the Centre, which now governs NCR-Delhi, to disclose its policy on the recommendations of the Prof Madhava Menon Committee and Lokayukta of Delhi regarding use of photos of political leaders on various advertisements issued by the government for which the expenditure is borne by the taxpayer.
Acharyulu said that the disclosure would be in the "best interests of democracy and (would be a) proper representation to the people before they exercise their franchise".
The Menon panel, which was formed on the orders of the Supreme Court, had recommended that government advertisements in the media must not feature images of ministers and leaders of the ruling party.
The CIC orders came on the plea of activist Subhash Agrawal who was seeking information on the issue of photos of the then Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in government advertisements, which had been criticised by the then Lokayukta.
Acharyulu said that since the political leaders who had complained against photo publicity of Dikshit to the Lokayukta are now part of the government, CIC finds that the people have a right to know about the policy on political publicity at their cost.
Agrawal had pointed out that the Lokayukta had found that the use of photographs of Dikshit and former minister Rajkumar Chouhan on the loan application forms was unusual and without any justification. The RTI activist had sought information on the Lokayukta's recommendation in such cases.
Citing similar observations of Supreme Court as well as the Lokayukta, Acharyulu said the matter raised by the appellant is of great public interest and, if properly acted upon, would check unreasonable use of public money in advertisements as photos of political leaders give an advantage to the ruling party and disturb the level playing field, especially during elections.