Pleased with the progress made by the civic authority in the removal of hoardings, the Bombay High Court on Friday suggested that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation rope in school children and NGOs to assist it in the drive. Earlier on Wednesday, the Court had ordered the civic body to remove all illegal banners in 24 hours.
The division bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and AP Bhangale were hearing a bunch of PILs complaining about inconveniences caused by illegal hoardings. “We appreciate the undying efforts of various municipal councils to remove illegal posters, hoardings and banners within the time period given,” the bench said. The court also appreciated the efforts put in by various media channels in “creating awareness” and pointed out that some credit should be given to them.
In its order, the court noted that the drive should continue. “All action will be taken and completed by the next date, which is April 25.” Justice Khanwilkar also recommended formation of bodies similar to Mohalla committees to assist in the drive and an official policy under the Urban Development Department for taking care of illegal hoardings. “The effort has to continue, this is not the end of the road. They [the corporations] are working overnight,” he said.
“Sustained pressure must continue. Involve NGOs, schoolchildren to work on this issue. So many resources are available to you in civil society. Follow the structure of Satara. Make it suitable for us. This time, we will give you as much time as you want [to remove hoardings] but the effort has to be sustained,” the court added.
Quelling concerns that ‘legal’ hoardings would also be inadvertently removed, the court has directed persons aggrieved by such removals to make the necessary applications before the local civil court for restitution, provided that they took proper permissions to put up their hoardings. “There is no need to bring up such individual grievances before the High Court. A remedy is available to you before the civil court.”
Finally, the court also pointed out that it was not only the duty of civic authorities to ensure hoardings were taken down, but also that of the police. The court has now adjourned the matter giving the various corporations adequate time to remove all illegal hoardings.
It took us years to remove hoardings: Satara municipal CEO
Mumbaikars have only one person to thank for the city’s spotless look, after it gets rid of illegal hoardings: Abhijit Bapat, Satara Municipal Council’s CEO, set an example under the supervision of the Bombay High Court by making the city of Satara free of illegal hoardings in record time. Speaking to MiD DAY, Bapat implies the sailing is smooth once political will is taken care of.
How did you manage to clear all illegal banners, posters and hoardings in one week?
The Bombay High Court regularly monitored our progress and we submitted our compliance report as per schedule. We have been taking action against illegal hoardings for the last one year.
Have you implemented any policy for the removal of hoardings?
As per the judgment of the Aurangabad bench of the High Court, we have implemented a nodal agency to deal with permissions for hoardings. We have municipal officers who go on regular checks to ensure no banners other than authorised ones are being put up.
How many hoardings have been taken care of under the policy?
So far, we have removed about 700 hoardings and taken action against 109 people who were responsible for putting up illegal hoardings. Though we faced opposition in some individual cases, by far, most political parties were very cooperative. Even the District Collector supported our initiative.
Setting an example: Aurangabad
In 2010, a local resident, 23-year-old Sunil Jadhav approached the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court, complaining about the hoardings in the city’s square, Kranti Chowk. On June 10, 2010, the division bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and SS Shinde had directed the commissioner of the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation and the collector to form a ‘nodal authority’ for granting ‘consolidated permission’ to display posters, banners and hoardings on boards.
The court had said, “We see no difficulty as to why the different authorities responsible to remove the illegal posters cannot consider constituting one nodal agency to take steps for effective implementation of the scheme to remove them throughout the city.”
The judgment stated that until the formation of such a nodal authority, the primary responsibility remained with the local corporation as well as the state government. On Friday, the court took a page out of its own judgment and suggested that a similar agency be formed for Mumbai, which would take care of permissions for hoardings and their removal.