Setting a week’s deadline to comply with its order, the Madras High Court has directed the Chennai district collector to proceed against the owners of advertisement companies who put up illegal digital banners in the city.
The First Bench, comprising acting Chief Justice Elipe Dharma Rao and Justice Aruna Jagadeesan, gave an interim direction on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by K. R. Ramaswamy alias ‘Traffic' Ramaswamy, a social activist.
The PIL sought a direction to authorities including the district collector and the Chennai Corporation commissioner to take action against persons who erected digital banners on road margins, central medians and footpaths without obtaining due permission from the concerned officials.
In a counter affidavit, the district collector stated that while through the Chennai City Municipal Act, he was empowered to give permission for the placement of digital banners, the power to remove illegal banners had been delegated to the Corporation due to shortage of machinery and staff.
The Corporation commissioner in his counter had given details of unauthorised hoardings, digital banners, and wall paintings that had been removed from different zones.
However, he did not disclose how many digital banners had been erected without obtaining due permission from the authorities.
Taking a strong view on certain omissions, last November, the Bench had said that the photograph annexed with the type-set revealed that many banners of different political parties have been erected.
There was no reply as to whether those banners had obtained permission or not. The counter affidavit was also silent as to how many criminal cases had been filed against the violators.
Under such circumstances, the Bench directed the authorities to file an additional affidavit giving details of the violators against whom complaints have been lodged and criminal cases were pending.
Subsequently, the Chennai district collector had an additional counter.
When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, the Bench expressed its displeasure over the content and said, “We are unable to appreciate the statement of the Collector. It is not a question of persons who erected the banners and escaped from the spot. The Collector should have identified the owners of advertisement companies and proceeded against them.”
Granting one week’s time, the Bench directed the authorities to comply with its earlier order.