Calcutta High Court: On a petition filed by Ganashakti, an accredited newspaper, which was denied Government advertisements on the ground that it is an organ of a political party, a bench of Debangsu Basak J. set aside the decision of the State Government holding it to be bad in law.

Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya, learned counsel for the petitioner contended that the petitioner is an accredited newspaper recognized by Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), Government of India and therefore the decision of the State Government to deny advertisements to a particular newspaper on the ground of political consideration is not only violation of declared policy of DAVP but also a violation of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of press as well as infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Abhratosh Majumdar, learned counsel for the respondent contended that the decision of the State Government cannot be faulted as the petitioner’s newspaper is owned and published by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and as per Section 293A of the Companies Act, 1956 as well as Section 182 of the Companies Act, 2013, a Government company is debarred from contributing any amount directly or indirectly to any political party.

The Court relied on several landmark rulings including Sakal Papers (P) Ltd. v. UOI, AIR 1962 SC 305 and Bennett Coleman & Co. v. UOI (1972) 2 SCC 788 and noted that advertisement is a primary source of revenue for any newspaper, and that denial of advertisements would raise the cost price of a newspaper for the ultimate reader, thereby would adversely affect the circulation of a newspaper and impinge on freedom of speech and expression. The Court further noted that the State Government has no right to discriminate among similarly situate, and that the policy decision taken by the State Government cannot be equated with a law within the meaning of Article 13 of the Constitution, as the restrictive populace which subscribes to the petitioner is no ground for the Central Government and the State Governments to deny advertisements to it. Accordingly, the Court set aside the decision of the State Government and held that the State Government will consider and grant the petitioner advertisements as that of the other newspapers in the category in accordance with law. Ganashakti v. State of West Bengal, 2015 SCC OnLine Cal 339, decided on 27-02-2015.

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