By Sanjan Bhalero
Despite political parties claiming to have stopped members and supporters from defacing the city, visits by political leaders and festivals see a sudden surge in number of illegal banners, posters and hoardings.
In the last one year (January to November), out of 9,634 banners, boards, hoardings, flags and wall defacements removed by the civic body, 58 per cent or 5,621 were political in nature. FIRs were filed only in 575 cases, while complaints against 2,083 were filed with the police. The BMC last year had taken action against 16,413, out of which 13,312 were political in nature.
Even after a High Court (HC) order and undertakings by political parties, civic workers said they fear political backlash if they take action. “Our officials face daily harassment by goons, who threaten them during our drives. We ask for police protection, but aren’t provided with it during all drives,” said an official from the licence department. The HC has also directed the Mumbai Police to provide two armed constables to civic officials during such drives.
In a bid to control unauthorised political banners, the HC had in February last year even asked the central and state election commission if it can cancel parties’ registration if they deface public properties. In 2013, the HC, while hearing a PIL, had ordered a ban on all illegal banners, hoardings and posters in the state.
Under Section 328 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act, the BMC provides permission for putting up hoardings. The civic body’s licence department’s manual clearly states that it does not give permission for “political banners, birthday greetings, anniversary greetings etc on municipal roads and footpaths” as per the HC’s orders.
Under the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1995, a person can be fined Rs 2,000 or face a three-month imprisonment or both. Besides, under the MMC Act, an offender can be penalised Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000.