Delhi’s government says that the RRTS initiative lacks funding, and the SC requests information on the amount of advertising spent.
In the ongoing case regarding the funding of the Rapid Rail Transit System (RRTS) corridors connecting Delhi with Ghaziabad and Meerut, the Delhi government has expressed its inability to contribute the allocated amount of Rs 1,180 crore out of the total project cost of Rs 30,274 crore. As a result, a sum of Rs 415 crore is still pending release from the Delhi government’s side.
However, the Supreme Court has raised concerns over the Delhi government’s claim of a paucity of funds, especially when it comes to a project of significant importance like the RRTS. In response, the court has asked the National Capital Territory (NCT) government to provide detailed information about the amount of money spent on advertisements during the last three financial years.
The bench, comprising Justices S K Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia, has directed the NCT government to submit an affidavit with comprehensive details of the funds utilised for advertisements by the state government. The court believes that understanding the spending patterns of the Delhi government, particularly in terms of advertising expenses, will shed light on the legitimacy of the paucity of funds claim made by the government.
The court’s inquiry was triggered by the counsel representing the NCT government, who cited the lack of funds and the decision being a cabinet one as the reasons for the government’s inability to contribute to the RRTS project.
In response to the government’s assertion that the shortage of funds had been communicated back in 2020, the court remains firm in its stance and seeks transparency on the government’s expenditure in various other areas, including advertising expenses.
The court even suggests that it might consider redirecting the funds spent on advertisements towards the RRTS project if it deems it necessary. This move highlights the court’s seriousness in ensuring that public funds are appropriately allocated to crucial infrastructural developments like the RRTS.
As the matter progresses, the court expects to receive the affidavit from the Delhi government, shedding light on its advertising expenses over the past three financial years, which will aid in the final decision-making process regarding the funding of the RRTS project.
During the proceedings, the bench emphasised that the RRTS project is a development initiative and requested the state government provide details regarding its expenditure on advertisements. The court expressed its view that undertaking a project itself serves as a form of advertisement, as it signifies the government’s efforts in accomplishing something noteworthy. Thus, the bench directed the Delhi government to submit the requested affidavit.
The specific case pertains to the Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut segment of the RRTS project, where the Delhi government was obligated to contribute around Rs 1,180 crore out of the total project cost of Rs 30,274 crore. However, a significant amount of Rs. 415 crore remains unreleased. A similar situation exists for the Delhi-Gurugram-Alwar and Delhi-Panipat segments, where the Delhi government has not yet released any funds.
Following the Supreme Court’s directions, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticised the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, accusing it of misusing public funds for self-promotion rather than focusing on Delhi’s development works. Delhi BJP president Virendra Sachdeva seized the opportunity to condemn the government and cited the court’s demand for details of the government’s ad expenditure over the past three years as evidence of its extravagance.
The Delhi government’s advertising expenses have been a subject of scrutiny for several years, with the BJP, Congress, and the Lieutenant Governor’s office raising concerns about the exorbitant amounts spent on advertisements since 2015. Reports suggest that approximately Rs 1,100 crore has been allocated to advertising in the past three years alone.
Earlier this year, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal received a recovery notice of Rs 97 crore, which was later revised to Rs 163.62 crore, for allegedly misusing government funds for political advertisements. The issue was initially raised by Congress leader Ajay Maken in 2016, who subsequently approached the Lieutenant Governor in October last year. Although the AAP approached the Delhi High Court against the notice, it did not receive a stay on the demand order.
Amid these controversies, the priority section of the Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut project, connecting Sahibabad to Duhai, has received clearance from the safety inspector and is expected to commence operations soon. The National Capital Region Transport Corporation has set a target to open the entire 82-kilometre corridor, significantly reducing travel time between Delhi and Meerut to less than an hour, to the public by 2025.