Civic body cannot demand display on hoardings that don’t have licence: Bombay HC

Taking exception to the BMC’s order, Bombay High Court said last week that the civic body is “not entitled to demand the display of any messages, civic or otherwise on hoardings other than those that have a valid, existing licence.”

| Mumbai | Published: February 19, 2018 4:06:59 am
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The owner of two hoarding spaces in Bandra West, who was prohibited from using them after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said their size was larger than permitted, approached the Bombay High Court after the municipality on February 6 asked him to display a poster about the Magnetic Maharashtra summit starting on February 18, attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Taking exception to the BMC’s order, Bombay High Court said last week that the civic body is “not entitled to demand the display of any messages, civic or otherwise on hoardings other than those that have a valid, existing licence.” Petitioner Rajkumar Harnam Dass Narang, represented by Shoaib J Memon, had filed a writ petition in 2016 after the BMC refused to renew his licence and asked him to remove the hoardings. In interim orders, the court had granted a stay on the removal of the hoardings.

Earlier this month, Memon placed before the court a notice issued by the BMC asking Narang to display posters of Magnetic Maharashtra in compliance with a policy of the civic body that requires display of a “civic message” on hoardings without payment for 15 days a year.

“The petitioner was among several persons who received a notice from BMC, ostensibly in compliance with some policy, directing him to put up these hoardings what is euphemistically called a ‘civic message’. That expression does violence to the language. What the petitioner was asked to put up by the BMC was nothing but a political poster featuring the honourable Chief Minister and the honourable Prime Minister in advance of the Magnetic Maharashtra Convergence 2018, to be held at Bandra Kurla Complex, this coming weekend until February 20, 2018,” said Justice Gautam Patel in an order dated February 15.

Officials in the civic body, on being asked, said they were acting on an email from the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation’s advertisement section asking the BMC to ensure that all hoardings between the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and Nariman Point be kept available for advertising or displaying hoardings related to the conclave.

Appearing for the BMC, advocate Anil Sakhare said the civic body has a policy allowing hoardings to be used without payment of fees for display of a civic message for 15 days in a year.

“No authority at any level at the Centre and the State can insist on the use of an unlicensed or illegal hoarding for any purpose whatsoever. If a person may not use it for a legitimate commercial purpose, he or she cannot be forced to serve some State Government or political end,” said Justice Patel.

“Therefore, in all future matters, the BMC is not entitled to demand the display of any message civic or otherwise, on hoardings other than those that have a valid, existing licence,” he added

After the owner of the hoarding space agreed to correct the dimensions of the hoarding, the court asked the BMC to renew his licence for both the hoardings. “I trust my meaning is plain. Any violation of this order under any circumstances will immediately invite judicial action, irrespective of who commands such illicit displays for whom and for what purpose,” the court said.

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