The Madras High Court on Friday said it has “lost faith” in the Tamil Nadu government, criticising the state on the issue of illegal hoardings.
The court’s remarks came a day after an illegal hoarding erected on a road fell on a 23-year-old woman riding a two-wheeler, who then lost her balance and was crushed to death by a water tanker. The hoarding in question was put up by former AIADMK councillor C Jayagopal for his son’s wedding. The marriage was attended by high-profile AIADMK functionaries, including Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam.
The victim, Subhasri, had been working as a techie with a private firm and was to go to Canada in a few months to pursue her higher education.
In 2017, the Madras High Court had passed an order banning hoardings of living persons and political parties along roads and pavements as it obstructs traffic and is an inconvenience to pedestrians. The High Court, while hearing a contempt petition filed by social activist ‘Traffic’ Ramasamy in December 2018, had issued an interim order restricting all political parties in Tamil Nadu from erecting digital banners or banners in public places.
On Friday, a High Court division bench comprising Justice N Seshasayee and Justice M Sathyanarayanan said, “There is zero respect for lives in this country to do sheer bureaucratic apathy. We have lost faith in this government.”
The court also expressed its displeasure over the authorities failing to implement its orders on erecting hoardings. “Just imagine how much the girl could have contributed to the GDP of this nation. Couldn’t that politician have conducted the marriage without banners? Or would the ministers get lost in the city in the absence of such banners directing them to the venue?” the bench said.
The court also directed the state government to hand over Rs 5 lakh as interim compensation to Subhasri’s family, and called for the state to come up with a concrete plan for the implementation of the ban on hoardings.
As the incident triggered outrage on social media, both DMK and AIADMK issued statements, warning their cadre not to erect hoardings or put up banners for any party or family functions.
DMK leader M K Stalin said he wouldn’t participate in any public rally or event if he comes across those banners. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Panneerselvam jointly issued a statement, claiming that certain “over-enthusiastic party cadres” are indulging in these kinds of activities without realising the consequences.
Apart from the two Dravidian parties, others including Dr. Ramadoss, founder of PMK, TTV Dhinakaran of AMMK directed their cadres not to put up banners for any party event.
“Cut-out culture is deep-rooted in Tamil Nadu. DMK started his culture and every other political party followed it. Stalin claims that only AIADMK is putting up banners, which isn’t true. What happened on Thursday was unfortunate, both EPS and OPS have now requested the party cadres not to erect banners which may cause disturbance to the public and AIADMK cadres will follow their orders, said Vaigaichelvan, spokesperson of AIADMK.
On the other hand, Saravanan Annadurai of DMK claims AIADMK is a repeat offender and he highly doubts whether the party cadres would adhere to their leader’s instruction. “AIADMK hasn’t learned their lessons. It was engineer Raghu in 2017 and now it is Subhasri. I can assure you that after the statement by our leader MK Stalin, no DMK would dare to erupt banner in the future for our party events, but that’s not the case with AIADMK. There is no intent even in their statement. They are in power, the state police are under them but they haven’t taken any action against illegal hoarding. The genesis of the banner culture in AIADMK is because there is a fight going on between EPS and OPS to show who is the first-man of the party is and that is spilling over the streets. It has ultimately boiled down to the point that the police are not willing to take any action against the AIADMK cadres,” he added.
Despite several attempts by The Indian Express, Jayagopal was not reachable for comments. According to retired Justice K Chandru, there is no legal sanction on erecting digital banners at public places.
“These politicians brought this culture of seeking permission for erecting banners to the Collector if it’s a district and to the Corporation Commissioner if it’s a city, It’s only a government order and there is no legal sanction to it. Even in that, the ruling party will seek permission for 200 banners and end up setting up a thousand plus banners. There is only one way to curb this culture – instead of filing the complaint against the councilor or local in-charge, the police should file a case against the party head as a collective fine for encouraging their cadres,” he said.
This isn’t the first case in Tamil Nadu involving an illegal hoarding that has resulted in the death of a person driving a two-wheeler – in 2017, Ragupathy Kandasamy, a 30-year-old techie, died in Coimbatore after his motorcycle rammed into a temporary wooden hoarding set up on the road by AIADMK cadres for the centenary birthday celebrations of former CM M G Ramachandran. Officials later removed the banners.
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