Ahead of the Maharashtra assembly elections of October 15, the Bombay High Court today asked all the municipal corporations and councils to conduct a special drive to remove illegal hoardings and banners.

The division bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka said the drive should start immediately and continue ten days after
October 19 when the election process would come to an end.

Illegal hoardings and banners deface public and private places and there was an urgent need to curb their mushrooming, the judges said. Meanwhile, MNS today filed an affidavit assuring that it would instruct its party workers to seek permission before putting up hoardings during the polls and even thereafter.

BJP, NCP, RPI-A and Congress have already filed affidavits with similar assurances. The court's directive came with a bunch of public interest litigations, including the one filed by Su-Swaraj Foundation through its lawyer advocate Uday Warunjikar.

The HC had earlier asked the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to appoint senior inspectors of licence department) as nodal officers to check illegal hoardings. In other cities, ward officers would be the nodal officers.

But apparently not satisfied with the action taken so far, the bench today asked the secretary of the urban development department to appoint a nodal officer not below the rank of deputy secretary to check illegal hoardings.

The nodal officer should file a compliance report within two weeks, it said, adding that all the complaints pertaining to illegal hoardings should be lodged with the chief nodal officer.

The court also directed that all the municipal bodies should maintain a register to record anonymous complaints against illegal hoardings received through SMSes or toll-free numbers. The bench said it would pass directions about the recovery of the costs of removal of hoardings at the next hearing on November 24.

Cases should be filed against those responsible for putting up illegal hoardings under the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act within a month, the court said. On February 21 this year, another bench of the High Court had asked the municipal bodies to file compliance reports on the steps taken to remove illegal hoardings.

Advocate Warunjikar had brought it to the notice of the court earlier that an HC order dated March 15, 2013 had sought removal of the illegal hoardings in the state within 48 hours, but it was never complied with.