No authority can compel citizens to display political messages, says Justice Gautam Patel
The judge in specific words clarified that the BMC in future will not be entitled to demand the display of any messages, civic or otherwise on hoardings other than those that have a valid, existing licence. Justice Patel has also warned of judicial action against those who breach the orders.
Mumbai : The Bombay High Court on Friday came down heavily on the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Maharashtra government for compelling people to display political messages, on their hoardings and billboards near Bandra. The HC has clearly said it will not allow authorities to compel citizens to display any message, if the hoardings do not have a valid licence.
A single-judge bench of Justice Gautam Patel slammed the BMC and the government as the authorities had earlier prohibited owners of two hoardings from displaying any advertisements, citing invalid licence. However, the civic body recently asked the same persons to display a “civic” message, which was nothing but an advertisement carrying the photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, for an investment summit, which is likely to take place by week end.
During the course of hearing, the BMC counsel informed the judge of the civic body’s policy wherein no hoarding having an invalid licence is allowed to display advertisements.
Having heard the submissions, Justice Patel said, “The BMC cannot have it both ways. It cannot say that a citizen may not use his hoarding for legitimate commercial purposes because it violates some rules and at the same time, say for what are obviously political purposes, that very non-conforming hoarding should be used, because the government says so.”
The judge in specific words clarified that the BMC in future will not be entitled to demand the display of any messages, civic or otherwise on hoardings other than those that have a valid, existing licence.
Justice Patel has also warned of judicial action against those who breach the orders. “I trust my meaning is plain. Any violation of this order under any circumstances will immediately invite judicial action, irrespective of who commands such illicit displays for whom and for what purpose,” Justice Patel said.