Delhi HC to hear challenge to ASCI’s role as regulator

A writ petition has challenged the power and role of the Advertising Standards Council of India


The PIL was filed after the Advertising Standards Council of India ruled that an advertisement by Pratham regarding commencement of classes in April 2016 for various competitive examinations was misleading and deceptive. Photo: iStockphoto
The PIL was filed after the Advertising Standards Council of India ruled that an advertisement by Pratham regarding commencement of classes in April 2016 for various competitive examinations was misleading and deceptive. Photo: iStockphoto

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Friday sought a response from Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) over a challenge to its role as a self-regulating body and the extent of its powers.

The matter was brought before justice Sanjeev Sachdeva, who issued notices to ASCI, department of consumer affairs (DCA) and the consumer complaints council (CCC) established under ASCI and sought their response.

A writ petition filed by advocate Nipun Saxena for Pratham Education, a Delhi-based educational company, has challenged the power and role of the ASCI.

The litigation was filed after ASCI found an advertisement by Pratham regarding commencement of classes in April 2016 for various competitive examinations misleading and deceptive.

Questioning the competence of the DCA in delegating authority to ASCI and CCC which operate in the capacity of a court, the petitioner sought quashing of orders passed by the two authorities which had held the ad to be misleading.

It has been alleged that DCA has acted beyond its legislative mandate by delegating authority to ASCI to operate and pass orders outside its realm as a self-regulating body. The petition claims that such action is in “violation of Article 14 (right to equality) and impairs its freedom to carry out trade/profession”.

The petitioner further submits that ASCI, in the absence of any statutory authority, has been disposing of thousands of complaints pertaining to false and misleading advertisements and has actively advertised on its official website that it has started processing complaints on behalf of the DCA.

ASCI’s role, which is that of a voluntary organization registered as a non-profit company, has been questioned from time to time over the statutory powers under which it operates. It forms part of a three tier system constituted under the DCA to process complaints on misleading advertisements.

In February, a question challenging its powers was raised in the Delhi high court by Havells India with regards to an order by ASCI directing the electrical equipment maker to modify or withdraw an advertisement carrying the tag line “wires that do not catch fire” on grounds that it was misleading.

The matter will be heard next on 18 October.

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