The Bombay High Court on Friday asked to put on affidavit the statement of municipal commissioner Iqbal Chahal asking Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officers not to remove any posters, hoardings or banners of chief minister Eknath Shinde.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik was hearing a batch of public interest litigations (PILs) on the issue of illegal banners, hoardings and posters put up by political parties across the state, which according to the pleas, defaced public places. In 2016, the HC had directed the state government and all municipal corporations to ensure that no illegal hoardings are put up in public places.
Manoj Shirsat, advocate for one of the petitioners, informed the court about a newspaper article that claimed that the BMC chief had issued an unofficial direction asking municipal officers not to remove any hoarding or banner of the chief minister.
The judges said that they cannot go by media reports and asked Shirsat to place the same on record in an affidavit.
CJ Datta said: “You (Shirsat) file an affidavit placing this article on record. We will then ask the government to respond to it.”
The state government also submitted a report providing details of the action it has taken against illegal hoardings and suggestions on how to tackle the issue further.
The government has suggested that it could impose more stringent punishment and fine on offenders, demarcate places for hoardings to be put up, engage private agencies to monitor illegal hoardings and create a database of permissions granted for hoardings.
It suggests appropriate amendment in the provisions of the Maharashtra Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1995, whereby strict liability can be imposed on the offenders and the power to compound the offences can be given to the concerned police/ municipal officers similar to the provision in the Motor Vehicles Act.
Further it has suggested that directions can be given to the municipal corporations and councils and other concerned authorities to engages services of private agencies for monitoring the issue of illegal hoardings on the same lines as is followed for towing vehicles by Regional Transport Authorities.
The bench took the report on record and kept the PILs for further hearing on September 12.