Remove posters, banners: Election Commission

NEW DELHI OCT. 13. Concerned over the large-scale defacement of public places with hoardings, banners and posters by political parties, politicians and aspiring candidates for the forthcoming Delhi Assembly polls, the Election Commission today directed the authorities concerned to remove them and take action against the printer, publisher and beneficiaries of such publicity materials.

In letters written to the Delhi Government, Delhi Police, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Council, Delhi Cantonment Board and all the Electoral Returning Officers, the Election Commission today issued ordered for strict enforcement of the West Bengal (Prevention of) Defacement of Public Properties Act, 1976.

The Act, which was enforced in the Capital during the Asian Games in early 80s, defines defacement as impairing or interfering with appearance or beauty, damaging, disfiguring, spoiling or injuring any property including building, hut, structures, wall, tree, fence post or pole. Jail term of six terms and a fine of Rs. 1,000 is the maximum punishment under the Act.

The Commission has asked all the concerned authorities to submit a daily report to them.

``Give us a week's or at the most ten days time, you will see the difference. We cannot permit such blatant violation and defacement of public places in Delhi where we have so many foreign tourists,'' said a senior official said.

The letter also asked the authorities to ensure that there was no writing on walls as well.

Officials said no political party or candidate should permit its or his followers to make use of any individual's land, building, compound and wall without taking permission for erecting flags, staffs, suspending banners, pasting notice and writing slogans. It further directed that prosecution be initiated if any one indulged in such undesirable activities, without the written permission of the owner of the building, whether private or public.

Officials said Sub-Divisional Magistrates, Deputy Commissioners and Collectors would be conducting spot inspection with regard to defacement of walls or public and private buildings by pasting of posters, writing of slogans and painting of election symbols.

Senior officials of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi said, they would only be removing the posters, banners and hoardings the prosecution would be initiated by the Delhi police. Whenever such defacement occurs for benefit of a person, an organisation, an association or a political party, it is their president, chairman, director, partner or manager who would be prosecuted for this cognizable offence, the official said referring to the Act.

Officials said generally the Election Commission orders such a directive after the election notifications are issued. But this time they have issued much before, given the large-scale posters, banners, hoardings which have been put up all over Delhi by the political parties, local leaders.

Almost every roundabout, market place, road, park and flyover have been flooded with publicity materials. "Even wall writings have reappeared after several years in the Capital, indicating the laxity on the part of the authorities concerned. No one is willing to take any action against politicians,'' officials said.

Authorities expressed concern as to why no action in this regard was initiated by the Delhi Government in particular the Delhi Urban Development Minister, A. K. Walia, who had regularly been launching drive against defacement of public properties in the Capital. The Delhi Government had launched a special drive against defacement of public properties during the municipal polls last year.

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