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HC forms nodal agencies to check illegal hoardings in Maharashtra

Taking a stern view against illegal hoardings, posters and banners put up by political parties in Maharashtra sans official permission and thereby defacing public and private properties, the Bombay High Court today appointed nodal agencies to check this practice.

Hearing a bunch of PILs, a bench, headed by Justice Abhay Oka, also issued notices to major political parties, namely, Congress, Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), to state by September 30 whether they would file written undertakings assuring not to erect hoardings anywhere in the state without permission.

In response to notices issued earlier, BJP and NCP appeared before the court and gave separate written undertakings that they would ask their workers and office-bearers not to put up such illegal hoardings, banners and posters anywhere in the state.
One of the PILs was filed by Su-Swaraj Foundation through advocate Uday Warunjikar.

The court asked the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to appoint senior inspectors (licence department) as nodal officers to check illegal hoardings. In case of other corporations outside Mumbai, such nodal officer would be ward officers in the respective localities, the bench ruled.

The bench also ordered senior police inspectors in Mumbai and officers in-charge of concerned police stations outside the city to provide protection to the municipal team which removes such illegal posters and hoardings.

The court ordered police protection because municipal bodies complained that workers of political parties beat up their staff whenever they moved in to remove such hoardings.

The bench further noted that police commissioners in Mumbai and other cities would depute officers at the level of deputy commissioner of police as nodal officers to review the drive against illegal hoardings. In districts outside Mumbai, the superintendent of police would depute officers at the level of deputy superintendent of police as nodal officers.

These nodal officers would act on complaints filed by municipal corporations or municipal councils. The offenders would be booked under the Prevention of Defacement Act within a month, the court ruled.

The court also ordered that all civic bodies should have a toll-free number to enable people to register complaints against illegal hoardings. "If a citizen finds his complaint on toll free number has not been considered by officers, he or she can approach the nodal officers, the Judges said.

The bench formed a committee of citizens at the ward level to keep a check on illegal hoardings and asked the local authorities to organise awareness programmes on the issue.

The court had last month slammed municipal corporations in Maharashtra for not filing compliance reports on its earlier order to remove the illegal hoardings.

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, to prosecute the culprits and to recover fine from them.

Advocate Warunjikar had brought to the notice of the court during the last hearing about its order dated March 15, 2013, which had sought removal of illegal hoardings within 48 hours.

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