OUT OF the 11,840 illegal banners, posters, boards, and flags it removed across Mumbai between January and July 2022, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation launched prosecution in only 485 cases, and the city police filed only 13 FIRs, according to data from the civic body. A total of 681 complaints were filed by the civic body with police stations, 13 of which converted to FIRs.
Of the illegal banners, posters, boards and flags removed this year, 3,845 were political in nature, including 1,326 flags; 958 were commercial; and 7,037 were religious. The number of illegal posters, banners, flags and boards was the highest in April at 2,311, when BMC’s complaints to police as well as FIRs peaked at 139, and five respectively. The BMC launched 59 prosecutions in this month. In February, when the second highest number of banners, boards, flags and posters, 1,997, were removed, BMC launched 86 prosecutions, made 110 complaints to the police, and three FIRs were filed. Two FIRs were filed in June 2022.
A senior civic official said, “Illegal banners and posters usually peak at the beginning of every year, or during festivals, or other big events. Action is ongoing on BMC’s part at the ward level.”
Bhagwanji Rayani, a city-based activist who had filed a public interest litigation in Bombay High Court regarding the matter, said, “For every illegal banner or poster, there should be an FIR. Action should be taken in every case. These figures are dismal. I am now going to file a contempt of court against BMC, police and the state government on behalf of Janhit Manch.”
A senior civic official said, “The police have informed BMC that a bunch of FIRs can be clubbed and filed against the person/organisation/political party that puts these illegal hoardings, instead of filing separate ones in each instance. In many cases, we cannot locate who has put the illegal poster or banner. So who do we prosecute, or who do we name in the FIR?”
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Requesting anonymity, a senior police inspector from a central Mumbai police station said, “The BMC does give a complaint by post but they do not wish to become complainant in the case. They know who has put up the illegal banners but tell us to register FIR against unidentified persons.”
In 2017, the Bombay High court had directed the state government and municipal corporations to pull down all illegal banners and posters in their jurisdiction.