Businessman Punit Balan has finally responded to a notice from the Pune Municipal Corporation's (PMC) sky sign department, which imposed a hefty fine of Rs 3.2 crore on him for displaying advertisements during the 2023 Dahi Handi festival without prior permission. Balan claimed that the notice is illegal, driven by personal vendetta, and was leaked to the media to tarnish his reputation. He demanded the PMC withdraw the notice and issue a public clarification.
In response to the notice, Balan pointed out that the civic administration had previously waived charges for stages and pandals during the Ganesh festival, as confirmed in a letter to the state government. Charges for welcome arches and pandals, approved by the police department, were abolished by the corporation's general body meeting in 2019.
Permissions were valid till 2027
Balan also highlighted that permissions for various festivals, including Dahi Handi and Ganesh mandals, were valid for five years, from 2022 to 2027, according to a decision made in a meeting involving Ganesh mandals, police officials, and civic authorities in August 2022.
Punit Balan asserted that his companies merely serve as advertisers, and the advertisements were affixed by the mandals themselves. Therefore, if the civic administration intended to issue a notice, it should have been addressed to the mandals. Balan contended that the PMC's decision to single him out appears to be driven by personal animosity, an effort to tarnish his image, and the deliberate leaking of the notice to the media. Against this backdrop, he called for the PMC to withdraw the notice directed at him and publicly acknowledge its cancellation.
He also highlighted that the state government's stance of allowing festivals to proceed without restrictions makes it unlawful for the civic administration to impose fines and demand defacement charges. It is also illegal to threaten the collection of these fines and charges via property tax, as stated in Punit Balan's letter to the civic administration.