The Bombay High Court in a hearing against illegal hoardings, have accepted the suggestion to put a QR code on the hoarding. The court also noted down that if the QR code is not visible on the hoarding, the police can put it down. The state government said that it will consider the suggestion “positively”.
Time and again the Maharashtra government, municipal corporations, councils and other authorities have faced irk of the Bombay High Court for failing to tackle the menace of illegal hoardings which deface the streets in the state. BMC and other corporations have already submitted the details regarding the hoardings.
During the hearing, one of the advocates suggested that the authorities concerned could make it mandatory to have a QR code on all legal hoardings which would give its details like who has put it up and number of days for which it is erected.
A division bench of Chief justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik asked Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni to consider the same saying: “If a hoarding doesn’t have QR code then police can pull it down without following natural justice (without giving a hearing)”
Earlier, while hearing a batch of public interest litigations, the high court had passed a slew of directions in 2016 directing the state government and all municipal corporations to ensure that no illegal hoardings are put up in public places. The court has also called for reports, on a regular basis, from authorities showing compliance of its orders.
Recently, a similar report submitted by the state government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) showed that the city’s corporation, which is one of the richest corporation, fared below par when it came to taking action against illegal hoardings.
The HC was recently informed that in a special drive conducted in the State on August 3 and 4, the municipal corporations removed 27,206 hoardings in the state and collected a fine of Rs 7.23 crore as against merely 1,693 hoardings removed in the city over a period of 10 days.
The BMC counsel said that the corporation too had undertake a special drive for 10 days in August, and during the said period, it managed to remove merely 1,693 hoardings and banners in the city. During this time, 168 First Information Reports (FIRs) were registered against those who had put up illegal hoardings and banners.
The government had issued a detailed guidelines for the BMC on April 29, 2022 to take action against illegal hoardings. Whereas, on May 9, 2022, rules were framed to be followed by other municipal corporations.
Meanwhile, the state government has suggested that the corporation 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 has also suggested 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 judges suggested that the only way to deal with it was to keep a strict vigil and punish the offender so that they don’t repeat the offence.