Delhi Lokayukta Manmohan Sarin has issued notices to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Transport Minister Ramakant Goswami, six other MLAs and 14 Councillors to show cause why an inquiry be not conducted against them for alleged violation of the provisions of Sub-Section 2 of Section 3 of the Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Property Act-2007 for putting up posters across the city.
In his order issued on May 13, the Lokayukta said from the “perusal of documents and material placed on record it is seen that the concerned ‘public functionaries’ i.e. councillors and MLAs have prima facie contravened the provisions of Sub-Section 2 of Section 3 of the Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 2007. It would thus also prima facie be a case of contravention of Section 2 (b)(i) of the Delhi Lokayukta and Uplokayukta Act-1995 for failure to observe norms of conduct and integrity expected of a ‘public functionary’ of their class.”
Pointing out that “political parties are normally vying with each other in their claims of developing Delhi into a “First Class Metropolis” or a “World Class City”,” Justice Sarin said: “However they are reluctant when it comes to join in consensual effort to impose self-regulation in the matter of putting up boards/hoardings/banners etc.”
Stating that they were not willing to join hands in making a “Poster Aur Banner Mukt Delhi” (Poster and banner-free Delhi), the Lokayukta said: “There is no gain-saying that the existing laws provide for regulation of poster/banners/hoarding etc. The ground realities are however totally different. The banners/posters/hoardings are put up on the smallest pretext. Be it a birthday, a festival or winning some internal election or inauguration of a road or project. These poster/ banners/hoardings are put up not at the scheduled sites of MCD which would earn revenue for MCD, but at other convenient places in contravention of the statute.”
Stating that these posters/banners/hoardings are either put up by public functionaries or their followers, who wield considerable clout, the Lokayukta said this results in a situation of almost ‘nil’ prosecution.
“Constraint of resources such as manpower, the availability of place to store case property in case of seizure etc. are often cited as impediments to prosecution. Reality is that enforcement agencies are reluctant to take action against the powerful and mighty and to whom they otherwise report.”
He said the extent of the menace can be gauged from the fact that in 2011-12 in Rohini zone alone, MCD claims to have removed 45,366 Posters, 23,829 banners and 10,397 hoardings without any prosecution having been launched against any person.
In this case, the complainant, S.K. Saxena, had stated that he was aggrieved by the posters/banners/hoardings etc. put up by the workers of political parties and public functionaries in contravention of the provisions of Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Public Property Act, 2007.
Stating that putting of such boards/hoardings/posters was claimed to be in contravention of the provisions of Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Property Act-2007, the Lokayukta said Sub Section 2 of Section 3 of the Act provides punishment of imprisonment for a term up to one year, or with fine up to Rs 50,000 or with both.
Incidentally, last year too the Lokayukta had issued a notice to the presidents of the Delhi units of all the national parties registered here to find ways to curb the practice of political leaders putting up hoardings, boards and advertisements on pavements, crossings and other “obstructive” places.
In his order, Justice Sarin referred to that earlier case filed by one Rajesh Garg against the signboards, posters and hoardings put up by Delhi BJP president Vijender Gupta. The complainant had stated that these posters and hoardings had been put up without permission from the MCD or the Public Works Department. Following this, Justice Sarin had issued notices to the presidents of Delhi units of all the major political parties.
The Lokayukta noted in his recent order that: “It was proposed that parties could agree to allocated designated sites and places in different areas, where posters/banners/hoardings could be put up.”
But, he said, “Unfortunately, the response of the major party i.e. Congress party was a disappointing one. It was stated on their behalf that existing Statute and Outdoor Advertisement Policy of the MCD were sufficient enough to deal with this issue. While the other political parties indicated their willingness to go along with the consensus as may be reached to end this menace.”