February 20, 2015 1:45:26 am
The Delhi High Court on Thursday upheld the government’s policy requiring prior permission for putting up any ads, posters or banners even on private property. It also asked the city’s civic agencies to formulate a policy on granting permissions for political advertisement within three months, if such a policy does not already exist.
The direction was issued by the court of Chief Justice G Rohini and justice R S Endlaw in its judgment on a plea filed by two AAP volunteers, who had filed a PIL challenging the Delhi Defacement Act.
The plea was moved after the Election Commission of India wrote to the Chief Electoral Officer of Delhi in October 2013 that, in the context of 2013 polls for Delhi Assembly, putting up banners or posters at homes of volunteers or supporters is prohibited under the Defacement Act, 2007.
In its 35-page judgment, the court rejected as “clearly fallacious” the petitioners argument that one has absolute freedom to do anything on one’s own property, saying if this was allowed “there would be no need for town planning and all towns or cities would become slums, having haphazard growth, with each constructing on his property in the manner he may like”.
The court has held that prior permission was necessary for putting up any posters or banners even on private property. “Defacement Act does not absolutely prohibit putting up of political posters/banners on private properties and that for putting up of political posters/banners, requisite permission under the municipal and other applicable laws has to be obtained. However without such permission, such posters cannot be put up on one’s private property also,” the court said.
The court, however, noted that the permission policy of the government should be “content neutral.”
“If commercial advertisements are put on private buildings with the permission of the appropriate authorities, we fail to see any reason as to why political advertisements should not be. No reason for absolutely prohibiting/banning political advertisements/banners/posters has been disclosed,” the court noted.
The court noted that the control on putting up posters and banners did not violate the freedom of speech and expression. “Unlike oral speech, signs, hoardings or posters take up space, obstruct view, distract motorists, displace alternative uses for land, are a source of litter and all of which legitimately call for regulation.”
“Proliferation of an unlimited number of posters in private, residential, commercial and industrial areas of the city would create ugliness, visual blight and clutter,tarnish the residential and commercial architecture, impair property values and impinge upon the privacy and special ambience of the community,” the court held.
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