The Madras High Court on Wednesday struck down a legal provision which restricted erection of hoardings only to lands belonging to local bodies in the State and held that even those who want to erect hoardings on private lands as well as on lands owned by entities such as Southern Railway could make necessary applications.
Allowing a batch of writ petitions filed by Chennai Hoardings Association and others against an amendment introduced in 2018, Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad rejected the argument that there could be better control and monitoring if hoardings were permitted only on lands belonging to local bodies.
“The regulation and control as per the municipal laws will apply equally and, therefore, the placing of a hoarding at place A or at place B would hardly make a difference. While granting licence, the Corporation has the authority not to grant licence at a particular place keeping in view the necessity or otherwise of placing such a restriction.
“Thus, there is no rationality in totally excluding private land or State government land or otherwise the land belonging to the Central government like the Railways. The choice to grant licence or otherwise is still there and any violation of the restrictions imposed can still be a matter of application by the municipal corporation.
“A place where a hoarding has to be set up has to be regulated and merely because the municipal corporation, through its employees, is unable to cope up with the monitoring process, the same cannot be a ground to exclude and classify private land or government land as untouchable or unavailable,” the Bench held.
It went on to state that such exclusion of lands amounted to prohibition and such curtailment also hits the fundamental rights of private land owners to enjoy their properties if a licence could be granted for erection of hoardings.
“The municipal corporation also cannot be permitted to raise hoardings on land belonging it, if it is otherwise not desirable or permissible,” the judges concluded.