Digital advertisement boards to be back in city

These were disallowed earlier on grounds of violating court orders and road congress norms

Digital advertisement boards that do not have the District Collector's license, and are in violation of the State Government rules, Madras High Court rulings and directions from officials, will soon be back in the city, thanks to the Coimbatore Corporation.

Corporation Commissioner Sravan Kumar Jatavath, by a proceeding of July 19, 2019, has allowed an advertising agency to display 30 “digital boards”, undoing what his predecessor K. Vijayakarthikeyan was asked to do – cancel the agreement.

In his proceeding of January 30, 2019, Mr. Vijayakarthikeyan cancelled the agreement with the agency after the Municipal Administration and Water Supply Department Secretary Harmander Singh and the then District Collector asked the Corporation to take action against the agency as the advertisement boards it had erected were in violation of the Tamil Nadu Urban Local Bodies Licensing of Hoardings and Levy of Advertisement Tax Rules, 2003. These also violated the Madras High Court order (in writ petition 41289 of 2016), various Government instructions and the norms laid down by the Indian Road Congress.

After the cancellation of the agreement, the advertisement agency concerned moved the Madras High Court, saying that the Corporation had unilaterally cancelled the agreement without giving it any notice.

The Corporation’s advocate submitted to the Court that as per instructions given to bidders with regard to the agreement there was no necessity for issuing notice to the petitioner-advertising agency for cancelling the agreement.

After hearing both sides, Justice D. Krishnakumar on February 6 quashed the proceeding and directed the Corporation to issue a show cause notice to the agency within two weeks of his order, mentioning the reasons for the cancellation of the agreement. The court order also said the agency should submit its explanation within two weeks thereafter.

And, on receipt of the agency's explanation, the Corporation should pass appropriate orders in accordance with law.

Consequent upon the court order, the Corporation issued a show cause notice on April 26, seeking an explanation on the issue. The agency then submitted its explanation.

Now, Mr. Jatavath says in his proceeding that the agency had given its explanation and also indicated its readiness to shift the digital information boards from one location to another to meet the statutory requirements of the Court and the Government.

Mr. Jatavath then says that the erection of boards is a measure of development of the city and therefore the Corporation has decided to go ahead with the agreement with the agency. But, he also adds that it has to be in compliance with various rules and court orders.

The Commissioner then refers to the Madras High Court order in a case between the advertisement agency and Tangedco to say that since the Coimbatore Smart City Limited was the one that floated the tender for the 30 digital boards, a no objection certificate from the District Collector is not necessary.

In renewing the agreement with the advertisement agency, the Corporation seems to have usurped the powers of the District Collector, says consumer activist K. Kathirmathiyon. In the first place, the Collector is the licensing authority for advertisements. He issues only licenses and does not give a no-objection certificate.

In this case, the very fact that the Collector has not issued licenses for the 30 digital advertisement boards made them illegal.

Second, the boards are not digital boards or digital information boards as either claimed by the advertising agency concerned or stated by the Corporation Commissioner but digital advertisement boards as the Corporation's contract clearly says that the advertising agency has to maintain the boards with revenue earned from advertisements.

Mr. Kathirmathiyon further says notwithstanding any of this, 30 digital advertisement boards will also be illegal because they will continue to violate all the rules and court orders that the previous Commissioner had mentioned as reasons for the cancellation of the agreement.

The advertisement boards should be 10 metres away from the road margin, 100 metres away from junctions, cannot face the road and cannot be erected in schools or hospitals, he points out. Most importantly, the Indian Road Congress norms do not allow digital advertisement boards. If these are only digital information boards, as claimed by the advertisement agency, why was the agreement cancelled earlier, he asks.

He adds that the Corporation Commissioner's action is patently illegal in law. Mr. Jatavath says the Corporation went by the Madras High Court order that said the Collector's no objection certificate was not necessary. But the Corporation reserves the right to act against the advertising agency if its digital boards are in violation of rules.

Collector K. Rajamani, who licenses advertisements, said any form of display without license and in violation of rules would be strictly acted against. And there would be no second thoughts on this issue.

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 3:26:14 PM |

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