City,PU gets notices for inaction against those ‘defacing property’

Offenders: PU lawyer differs,says posters represent ‘celebration of democracy’

Written by RAGHAV OHRI | Chandigarh | Published: May 1, 2013 2:11:48 am

For not taking action against offenders,who deface public property,despite giving an undertaking in court,the Panjab University and Chandigarh Administration are in the dock. The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday took suo motu cognisance of the nonchalant attitude of the authorities and issued contempt notices.

UT Home Secretary Anil Kumar and PU Registrar A K Bhandari have been issued contempt notices by Justice Rajesh Bindal,asking them to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them. The Chandigarh Municipal Corporation,and Punjab and Haryana government have also been issued contempt notices. The Court mentioned about defacement of property in Panjab University,in wake of student elections.

While counsels for Punjab,Haryana and Chandigarh Administration accepted the notices,senior lawyer Anupam Gupta,appearing for PU,expressed his “difference of opinion” on the issue. Submitting that he would convey the high court’s order to the university authorities,Gupta said that he would request the university to “nominate some other lawyer”. “I have fundamentally a different perception on the issue of defacement by posters in student elections,” Gupta said.

Former senior standing counsel for the Chandigarh Administration,Gupta said that posters “represent a celebration of democracy”. Mincing no words,Gupta contended “In my view,posters are essential to elections and represent a celebration of democracy,whether it is student or parliamentary elections. The archaic 19th century defacement statutes are totally unconstitutional and impinge on citizens’ fundamental rights”.

He added,“The right to participation in democratic elections is more important than protection of property or its cleanliness”.

The development took place after the court took suo motu cognisance of the “violation” of court orders and the undertakings given by the Administration and university to the court. On June 4,2012,the high court had taken suo motu notice of a news item that appeared in a local daily,about defacement of property and garbage littered in the City Beautiful.

Cognisance of broken condition of sign boards and disposing garbage on streets was also taken. After a year-long hearing,the court had disposed of the petition on April 1. The PIL was disposed of only after the court was assured by the Chandigarh Administration,Punjab and Haryana governments that “appropriate action” will be taken against the offenders.

“However,the condition has not improved,” Justice Bindal held. The Bench further ruled “even today one finds sign boards and places across the city defaced with posters,including those of student bodies and political parties. Garbage can be seen littered in several places”.

The court has given the authorities a week to respond to the suo motu contempt notice. After taking notice,the Bench referred the matter to the Chief Justice to list it before an appropriate bench.

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