New Delhi: A litigation has been filed in the Delhi High Court challenging the scope of power and authority exercised by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) over advertisers and broadcasters.
The petition has sought a declaration from the Court that the Ministries of Information and Broadcasting, Consumer Affairs, and AYUSH, along with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), cannot delegate their legislative and judicial functions to ASCI, which is merely a self-regulatory body.
Petitioners Sameer Jain and Anu Sura of Pamasis Law Chambers has stated in the petition that,
“A private self-regulatory body or a self-styled watchdog of advertising content in India has assumed the authority of a court of law and is passing binding orders of civil consequences on the basis of excessive delegation of power to it by the ministries.”
It was stated that ASCI processes complaints received against advertisements through a judicial tribunal-like body called the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC). It was further stated that the CCC comprises advertising professionals and some civil society members, but not a single technical or judicial member.
It was argued that,
“CCC essentially acts like a judicial/ quasi judicial tribunal, having trappings of a civil court and passes orders that have a bearing on the fundamental rights of citizens…The composition of CCC is arbitrary and follows no principled criteria. It is essentially a group of private individuals, adjudicating questions of constitutional importance.”
It was also submitted that advertisers, against whom the complaints were received, were not allowed any legal representation while their fundamental rights were being adjudicated upon. Moreover, the advertisers could not even cross-examine the complainant.