Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken today opposed the AAP's plea in the Delhi High Court against a Centre-appointed panel's report recommending that the ruling party be made to pay an amount of Rs 97 crore that the Delhi government had spent on advertisements. The Congress leader questioned the maintainability of the petition saying the Supreme Court had said anyone aggrieved with the actions of the committee, formed in compliance with its direction, may approach the apex court directly. The submission was made before Justice Vibhu Bakhru in an affidavit filed by Maken, who was asked to respond to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) plea against the report of the three-member committee, set up to regulate government advertising. The leader, in his affidavit filed through advocate Aman Panwar, has also said that the party has approached the court with "unclean hands and the petition is liable to be dismissed with exemplary costs". The court has now listed the matter for further hearing on March 20 next year. The AAP has challenged the report, based on which the LG had ordered the recovery, from the party, of Rs 42 crore which the Delhi government had paid for the advertisements. The LG had also directed that the outstanding amount of about Rs 55 crore, owed to advertising agencies, be paid by the party and not the government. The party has challenged the LG's order, the demand notice and the panel's recommendation stating that these decisions had been taken without hearing their side. Maken, however, has said, "If the party herein is at all aggrieved by the order passed by the three-member committee or any subsequent action originating from the same, the remedy lies before the Supreme Court itself." Maken was the complainant in the matter before the Committee. In its plea, the AAP has sought quashing of the demand notice issued on March 30 by the Delhi government's Department of Information and Publicity on the LG's direction. The LG had ordered the Chief Secretary of the Delhi government to recover the amount from the AAP within a month. The committee, headed by former Chief Election Commissioner B B Tandon, in its report of September 16 last year, had held that the Delhi government had spent the exchequer's money on advertisements projecting Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party in violation of the apex court guidelines of May 13, 2015. Supporting the findings of the committee, Maken in his affidavit said that "the very purpose of the guidelines of the Supreme Court was to prohibit misuse of public money for political advertisements and self-promotion by the party in power." "The present case is a classic example where, despite the apex court orders, the AAP party in power diverted crores of rupees for purely political advertisements which did not serve any political purpose," the Congress leader has said in his affidavit.
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