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common cause v. union of india

http://www.desikanoon.co.in

You can also read it here. http://www.desikanoon.co.in/2014/04/common-cause-v-union-of-india-my.html
 
There have been many cases relating to ban on advertising by the government. The latest case of Common Cause v. Union of India has again tried to revive this issue. In this case, the court cited advertisement guidelines followed by various countries and said that Judicial Review applies to any action (Advertising Policy as well) of the government that fails to satisfy the test of reasonableness. Finally, the court appointed a committee to suggest guidelines relating to best practices in public advertisements.
 
It is interesting to note that despite saying all this and setting up a committee to look into the matter, the court also remarked that Government advertising is a mode for the Government to disseminate information about government programs, policies or initiatives and it is only through such advertisements that the Government communicates with its citizens which plays an important role in efficiently and effectively achieving the goals of public policy.
 
My opinion on this issue is that a policy of the government should be subject to judicial review only if it is mala fide or is completely arbitrary and unjust. In the present case, I do not feel that a strong case was made by the petitioners to this effect. Every government will advertise and showcase its achievements. There is nothing wrong in it. In fact, as the court said, it is through such advertisements that the government communicates with the people and make them aware about various programs, policies and initiatives.
 
I also agree that sometimes the government advertisements are too cosmetic in the sense that some advertisements portray a particular leader to be responsible for implementation of a particular program or a scheme. But, again no one is interested in reading a dull advertisement. Sometimes, the government is better able to narrate its achievements by using name of a particular leader or minister and people are better able to relate themselves to that particular program by watching that person associated with that program. The whole point of an advertisement is to be as attractive and catchy as possible within the permissible limits of law. Invoking article 14 and article 21 for every remote cause does not seem just to me.
 
The court ought to have clarified its stand on Article 282 of the Constitution of India. Article 282 states that:
 
“Article 282 - Expenditure defrayable by the Union or a State out of its revenues - The Union or a State may make any grants for any public purpose, notwithstanding that the purpose is not one with respect to which Parliament or the Legislature of the State, as the case may be, may make laws.”
 
Thus, under article 282, a clear constitutional discretion is granted to the Union as well as the State government for making such grants. Also, the court itself admitted that Government Advertising is a mode to disseminate useful information about various programs and policies to the public. Hence, there is a clear ‘public purpose’ involved in such government advertisements. Judicial Review on the question that whether a public purpose exists while government is advertising its programs and policies seems quite unjust to me. The petitioners did not demonstrate as to how no public purpose is being achieved by such advertisements. Merely because a government is using the name of some of its leaders to advertise its achievements does not make those advertisements unreasonable or illegal.
 
Now, whether that ‘public purpose' was exercised judiciously or economically or what should be the quantum of money allocated to these advertisements or what should be the modes of advertising or when should the advertisements be broadcasted are questions that must be best left to the wisdom of the Executive and the Legislature. The Executive in our country is directly accountable to the Legislature (Since Executive is a part of the Legislature). Whatever trivialities that exist in the matters of policy must be disentangled by the Executive and the Legislature together. If there are some lacunae in a policy of the government, let the legislature censure the government on those grounds.
 
Suppose, there are ‘n’ number of ways of doing a same thing. The government can adopt any of those ways to meet the ends. If that particular way is not efficient, the Legislature can denounce it and ask the government to change its ways. The Judiciary has itself said in countless number of cases that policy matters are best left to the wisdom of the government and the legislature as the judiciary neither has the resources nor the expertise to examine the intricacies of each and every policy. I seriously hope that the increasing habit of the Honourable Courts to interfere with the ways of the Executive changes in future for good.
 
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