The State government on Monday told the Madras High Court that its year-end advertisement campaign, undertaken at a cost of ₹64.72 crore, to highlight its achievements of the last four years had come to an end on Thursday and hence a case filed by the DMK against the ad campaign had become technically infructuous.
Appearing before the first Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, Advocate General Vijay Narayan said it was not new for governments to issue advertisements highlighting their achievements. The Supreme Court had endorsed such a move stating that the Chief Minister’s photograph could be used in such advertisements.
Accordingly, the government had issued advertisements in newspapers, television channels, cinema halls and digital platforms from December 18, 2020, highlighting its achievements. Denying the charge that thousands of crores of rupees was spent on the ad campaign, he said around ₹58 crore was spent on it and the total amount worked out to ₹64.72 crore including Goods and Services Tax (GST).
He also stated that the DMK’s plea for the Election Commission of India (ECI) to intervene in the matter and prevent the government from issuing advertisements would not arise since the Assembly election date had not been announced and the code of conduct had not come into force. He assured the court that all campaigning would stop immediately after the code comes into force.
Senior counsel G. Rajagopalan, representing ECI, told the court that the DMK had already lodged a complaint with the ECI and the commission had called for remarks from the AIADMK and the State government. After hearing them, the judges directed the State government and ECI to file their counter affidavits by March 2.
Senior counsel P. Wilson, representing DMK, insisted that the ECI should also initiate action against AIADMK for having violated its October 7, 2016, guidelines which prevent political parties from using public funds, public places or government machinery for carrying out any activity that would amount to advertisement for the party or propagate the election symbol allotted to it.
He claimed that public funds had been used to boost the image of Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and other leaders of AIADMK on the verge of elections and it amounted to an unfair electoral practice.