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Pointing out that political parties and political families continue to violate court orders against illegal hoardings and banners, the Bombay High Court (HC) recently questioned the government on why FIRs were not being registered in such cases, despite the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) forwarding complaints to the police.
Senior Counsel Anil Sakhare, appearing for the BMC, informed the court that while the civic body forwarded complaints about illegal hoardings to the police, they were yet to act on them or file FIRs.
The court questioned government pleader Geeta Shastri about this, who said that in some cases, when the police reached the spot, they found nothing.
“You are duty-bound to register FIRs in such cases by law. Has it come to this that the police disbelieves what is being told to them by BMC officials?” questioned Justice A S Oka, adding that non-registration of FIRs is a serious offence.
The BMC also said that the provision of armed guards for BMC officials to protect them from attacks while on duty was not being followed properly. According to Sakhare, the two armed guards were not regularly available.
A bench of Justice A S Oka and Justice A A Sayyed was hearing two public interest litigations (PILs) alleging that political parties, in total disregard to the rules and laws, had put up illegal hoardings and banners all over the state.
Advocate Uday Warunjakar appearing for SuSwaraj Foundation, an NGO and one of the petitioners, said in some instances, having two armed guards was not enough to protect officials carrying out their duty from such attacks.
Pointing this out to the advocate appearing for the Shiv Sena, Justice Oka said: “More than 90 per cent hoardings are from political families. The leaders whose photos are shown on such hoardings, do they make such appeals? When social media is available, then why resort to indirect means of putting up hoardings to greet people?”
The Sena advocate informed the court that they had issued public notices to dissuade their workers from putting up illegal hoardings and had asked their ward presidents to take stringent action in such cases. “We are trying our best,” he added.
“Every political party is not implementing the orders despite it being a cognizable offence,” said the court.
Referring to earlier court orders, Justice Oka said that the right to live in a nuisance-free atmosphere was a fundamental one. “You should assure this, otherwise the public can claim compensation from you,” he added.
Warunjakar added that some multinational companies were also putting up illegal banners and hoardings during festivals. The High Court said that any hoarding that does not have permission should be removed.
Another petitioner in the matter, Bhagwanji Rayani, pointed to the flags and other party symbol that had been put up by the Shiv Sena from Chowpatty to Marine lines for the rally of its youth wing leader Aditya Thackeray, and said that action should be taken against it.
Meanwhile, according to the data provided by the BMC, they have removed 12, 486 banners, lodged 2,855 complaints, out of which the police has filed FIRs in 138 cases from January till October.
“The BMC has also lodged prosecution in 920 cases against the offenders,” the affidavit states. Out of the 12,486 banners, hoardings removed, 10,169 are political, 1,462 are commercial and 855 are religious.