Chennai: The Madras high court on Thursday directed the state government to frame guidelines for releasing advertisements to newspapers on the basis of circulation and other criteria without any discrimination, within three months.
Justice M. Duraiswamy gave the directive while allowing a petition from R Krishnamurthy, Editor of Tamil daily Dinamalar and Kal Publications Private Limited.
The judge also directed the state government to give advertisements to the petitioners’ newspapers Dinakaran and Tamil Murasu, a Tamil morning and evening dailies, based on the Audit Bureau of Circulations Certificate and a 1980 GO with immediate effect and also to refix the rate for the government advertisements for them.
“When the authorities were not in a position to explain the reasons for not releasing any advertisement to Dinakaran and Tamil Murasu, it clearly amounts to discrimination”, the judge said.
The judge said the issue of the advertisements amount to grant of state largess and there has to be a proper policy, which has to be followed by the authorities while issuing advertisements. The result of lack of proper policy would be that some newspapers, which report activities of the state government in a favourable manner, would enjoy state patronage and other newspapers, which were reporting the news in an impartial and unbiased manner, may not enjoy any state patronage.
The judge said even as per the 1980 GO, the authorities should also take into consideration the quantum of circulation of the newspapers. When the petitioners’ newspapers were circulated in high volumes, the authorities should have released advertisements in the said newspapers on par with other newspapers.
The judge said, “the petitioners were one of the largest Tamil dailies having more than 11 lakh copies per day. Similarly, the Tamil daily Dinamalar has got more than 9 lakh copies per day. It would be proper to frame guidelines/qualifications for releasing advertisements on the basis of circulation without any discrimination”.
“If proper guidelines are followed, then the question of discrimination shall not arise. Therefore, I am of the view that to avoid any future dispute with regard to release of government advertisements, the authorities should frame guidelines/ qualifications for the said purpose”, the judge added.