High Court turns heat on illegal hoardings

Mumbai :  The Bombay High Court on Friday appointed 16 advocates as “court commissioners” to do a survey and inspect all localities in the state that have illegal hoardings and submit a status report to their respective municipal corporations. The direction was passed after counsels of various corporations brought to the notice of the court that citizens are not filing any complaint against illegal hoardings.

Sixteen advocates had submitted their bio data along with consent letters to the court and they were then appointed as court commissioners to inspect areas in the cities, including Mumbai, they are practising in.

A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice A S Gadkari said, “The real problem is that residents are not filing any complaints. You need to publicise names and numbers of members of the citizen committee.”

The court has directed all the municipal corporations to further publicise their toll free numbers and additional numbers where complainants can send SMS regarding illegal hoardings in their areas. The court further said that names and numbers of the members of citizen committees formed to look into this matter, should be put on websites of all corporations; toll free numbers should be displayed in every ward office of all municipal corporations and advertised as notices in local newspapers and channels.

Justice Oka remarked, “If a complaint has been filed with a municipal corporation, the details of the same should not be disclosed especially to the offender.”

The Additional Government Pleader (AGP) for the state, Geeta Shastri said, “We have filed an affidavit stating that we have received 123 complaints against illegal hoardings and 47 parties have been booked under the Prevention of Defacement of Public Property Act.”

Shastri also pointed out that they are unable to file a First Information Report (FIR) against any party because by the time the police reaches the said location, the hoarding is pulled down.

The court also recorded interim directions and compliance reports submitted by various municipal corporations. The advocate for the Pune Municipal Corporation said that they have not formed any policy against illegal hoarding as yet, but are in the process to do so. Counsel for Thane Municipal Corporation submitted its compliance report on Friday. Advocates for Ahmedabad, Malegaon, Nashik and Latur Corporations said that toll free numbers are available but no complaints have been filed, therefore no development has taken towards removal of illegal hoardings in their cities.

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