The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has decided to lodge FIRs and pursue legal action against over 270 publications it feels have allegedly indulged in "fraud and embezzlement" to obtain money meant for government advertisements.
As many as 277 publications from Lucknow and Delhi are under the Ministry's scanner after a spot check verification carried out by the Department of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP) found gross irregularities in their publishing and circulation data.
"The check was carried out in Delhi and Lucknow and it was found that the details provided by these publications were shockingly misleading. The ministry is of the view that these 277 publications have indulged in fraud and embezzlement of Government money," an official source said.
Interestingly, 70 of the 277 publications which are now under the ministry's scanner were published from a single printing press, sources said.
"There is a strong view that these publications have used unfair means to obtain money meant for government ads from the DAVP. I&B minister M Venkaiah Naidu has taken a stern view of the matter and efforts will be made to recover money from them.
"In addition, the DAVP has also been directed to file FIRs against the owners, printers and publishers of these publications on the basis of spot verifications made," the source added.
It is learnt that in 2015-16, an amount of around Rs 1.95 crore was disbursed to these publications while in 2016-17 about Rs 1.19 crore was disbursed to them for publicity of government advertisements.
"Earlier, explanation had also been sought from these 277 publications and of these only 118 had given their reply. It has also been decided that the DAVP empanelment of these publications will also be cancelled," an official said.