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Remove all illegal hoardings, banners before elections: HC to BMC

Friday, February 17, 2017
By Philip Varghese

Citing the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, the Bombay High Court on Thursday ordered the removal of all hoardings, banners and advertisements put up illegally by political parties without the mention of license number and the duration period on them

With less than a week left for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, the Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the BMC to remove all hoardings, banners and advertisements put up illegally by political parties and initiate action against them.

This comes two weeks after the High Court (HC) had asked the Election Commission (EC) to impose conditions on political parties at the time of their registration that they would not indulge in defacement of properties as per the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act and laws governing sky signs and advertisements. The HC also asked the EC to consider issuing proper guidelines to compel the registered political parties against putting up illegal hoardings and posters not only during elections but all throughout.

The court has also directed political parties and their members to print the permission number allotted to them on the hoarding, poster, banner along with the duration period given by the BMC when allowing to put up the hoardings in public places.

However, during the hearing on Thursday, the division bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka directed the civic body to remove all hoardings, banners and advertisements put up illegally by parties without the permission numbers in public places. The bench was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by Suswaraj Foundation, Janhit Manch and others challenging illegal hoardings, banners and posters put up on roads, streets and public places by political parties and various other organisations.

“We direct the BMC to remove all hoardings, posters, banners and sky signs and advertisements put up without the permission license number and the duration period on them before the elections slated for February 21. The civic body will have to undertake a drive from today evening itself to remove all illegal hoardings from the city before the elections. BMC shall also initiate criminal action against the errant political parties and their members. Apart from the permission license number and duration period, the hoardings shall also include the name of the person who has put it up and the name of the printer,” the bench ordered.

The HC had, on November 26 last year asked the municipal bodies across Maharashtra to take up a special drive against illegal hoardings, posters, and banners.

The BMC said it had removed 12,486 banners in the city recently and lodged 2,855 police complaints. Police had registered 138 FIRs in this connection. The civic body also claimed that it had launched prosecution in 920 cases, and have also set up toll-free numbers, where citizens can complain about illegal hoardings. The court also asked the state government to appoint a secretary or secretaries of the rank of IAS officers to monitor and supervise the implementation of the provisions of municipal laws as well as the sections of Prevention of Defacement of Property Act.

The HC had observed that offences under these provisions of the Act are non-cognisable and action should be taken against wrongdoers. The court ruled that in municipal areas, where there is a Commissioner of Police, he shall nominate one or more senior officers not below the rank of deputy commissioner of police to act as nodal officers to oversee the performance of duties of senior police inspectors in the context of directions issued by the high court against illegal hoardings.

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