Ghatkopar Hoarding Collapse: Vacuum In Bombay HC Order & State Guidelines Over Structural Stability

Ghatkopar Hoarding Collapse: Vacuum In Bombay HC Order & State Guidelines Over Structural Stability

The incident of a collapse of a gigantic hoarding in Ghatkopar on Monday evening killing 14 persons and injuring over 74 brought to the fore the menace of the illegal hardings that deface the city skyline.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Tuesday, May 14, 2024, 11:33 PM IST
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Ghatkopar Hoarding Collapse: Vacuum In Bombay HC Order & State Guidelines Over Structural Stability | PTI

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court while dealing with the illegal hoardings menace has pulled up the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and state authorities on a number of occasions, however, the one aspect that remains to be addressed is regarding the structural stability of hoardings.

The incident of a collapse of a gigantic hoarding in Ghatkopar on Monday evening killing 14 persons and injuring over 74 brought to the fore the menace of the illegal hardings that deface the city skyline.

Despite there being guidelines and rules for putting up hoardings, the same are flouted. The authorities had permitted to put up a hoarding of 40X40 ft at Ghatkopar, however, the said hoarding was much larger than the permitted limits. Such cases are disasters waiting to happen.

On January 31, 2017, the high court, while hearing a batch of petitions including by Satarta-based NGO, Suswarajya Foundation, and city-based Janhit Manch, had passed a detailed 97-page judgment laying guidelines and casting responsibility of civil officials for keeping in check the illegal hoardings, including political hoardings and banners. The HC had directed the state government and all municipal corporations to ensure that no illegal hoardings are put up in public places.

As the order has not been implemented in “letter and spirit”, contempt petitions have been filed by Suswarajya Foundation and others urging strict implementation of the order and subsequent guidelines laid down by the government.

Advocate Uday Warunjikar, who had appeared for Suswarajya Foundation, said whereas the high court in its order and the state in its guidelines have taken various aspects into consideration with regard to checking legal hoardings and identifying illegal hoardings, the aspect of structural stability of the hoardings has remained unattended. “None of the high court orders or state guidelines goes into the aspect of structural stability. There is a vacuum on this aspect,” Wartrunjikar said.

The BMC grants permission to put up a hoarding and the agency concerned erects the same, however, there are no checks whether the structure on which the hoarding has been put up is stable. “Nobody checks whether the structure is capable of bearing the weight of the hoarding, or whether it will survive the winds, like yesterday (MOnday),” Warunjikar added.

Another advocate who was related to the illegal hoardings petition pointed out that this particular hoarding at Ghatkopar was legal. In this case, it was the duty of the BMC to get the structural stability certificate of the hoarding. The civic body should undertake a regular structural stability audit to prevent any such mishap in future, he said.

Warunjikar highlighted the incident of April 2023 where five persons were crushed to death in Pimpri Chinchwad in Pune when an iron hoarding collapsed on them due to strong winds. People had taken shelter from rain under the hoarding when it suddenly came crashing down.

During the hearing in the illegal hoardings on December 19, 2023, the bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Aruf Doctor has chided the state and the BMC for their slack attitude in taking action against illegal hoardings, and said that all that Mumbaikaars want is riddance from such illegal hoardings which deface the city.

“... this issue is such that the less said the better. If such a simple direction can’t be implemented… What (do) people in the city want? They simply want illegal hoardings should not be put up. This causes them inconvenience..” the CJ had remarked. The bench had also said that before every hearing, the BMC brings down some illegal hoardings and banners and submits a report stating it has taken action against “x” number of hoardings.

The latest report was submitted on February 21 this year, where the civic body said it had taken down a total of 10,839 political hoardings, 4,551 commercial hoardings, and 32,481 illegal hoardings. BMC counsel Anil Sakhare had said that it had sent information about 410 illegal hoardings to the police, which has resulted in registration of 22 FIRs.

The HC had then issued stringent directives concerning the proliferation of illegal hoardings, stating that no political party, religious organisation, or commercial entity can exploit public spaces for personal gains through advertising.

“No individual or group of individuals be it a political party or commercial or religious organisation can legally be permitted to utilise footpaths, street lights, roads for personal gains and advertisement, especially keeping in view the hazard caused to the pedestrian and other users of roads,” the court had said.

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