The Delhi government, Municipal Corporation of Delhi and New Delhi Municipal Council on Friday requested the Supreme Court to lift restrictions imposed by it on roadside hoardings in the Capital, saying there were various ways to put it without causing any accidents or inconvenience to the people.
During hearing of the case before a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan, Delhi government counsel SA Wasim Qadri submitted that the court's 1997 order placing restrictions on roadside hoardings needed to be changed in the changed circumstances. He said the view was supported by various studies conducted by expert groups.
Senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi and Rakesh Khanna too supported the idea on behalf of the MCD and NDMC respectively. Rohtagi said the MCD policy would be ready in the next few weeks.
The court asked the Delhi government and the civic bodies to prepare their final policy. And place it before the Bhure Lal Committee for clearance and adjourned the hearing till third week of August.
The counsel pointed out that hoardings could be displayed without causing any disturbance to the traffic and that the court could allow it with certain guidelines.
Delhi government maintained that allowing roadside hoardings has the potential to generate enough funds to transform the Capital into a world class city.
Citing research studies conducted in Delhi and Kolkata which state that there is no relation between road accidents and hoardings, it requested the court to lift the ban against erecting roadside hoardings and forming of guidelines on the issue.
"It has become imperative to evolve a comprehensive policy for granting permission for erection and display of hoardings and advertisements on roadsides without undermining safety," Delhi government said.
The government has made a strong case to rely the business model, wherein private companies would be allowed to put up outdoor ads in lieu of building and maintaining civic amenities and public utilities of international standards.
Every advertisement and hoarding on the roadside, even if visible by moving traffic, may not be treated as traffic hazard, provided its location and content are proper, it maintained.
"Extensive research has been conducted by the Department of Transport and School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), which reveals that there is no evidence of any relation between accidents and street furniture, including hoardings," it states.
There are similar studies by Centre for Advance Research on Transportation (CART). In these studies, all major and minor accidents that took place in the last four years were taken into consideration. Even the Delhi Traffic Police have not been able to establish any direct correlation between hoardings and accidents on the basis of their case studies.
The government claimed that outdoor advertising poses a business threat to the print media and while adjudicating on the issue, one should not be swayed by any consideration.
The world over, outdoor advertising is a permissible activity regulated by the local authorities. "All central business hubs have outdoor ads, including LED screens. There are success models like the Times Square in the US, Piccadilly Circus in the UK and Ginza in Tokyo," Delhi government said.
Also, outdoor ads help in disseminating social messages and can cover a wide range of population with diverse backgrounds in the most cost-effective manner.
The government has suggested adopting the Policy on Roadside Advertisements’ framed by the Indian Roads Congress with certain modifications to suit local conditions. "One cannot proceed on the assumption that all commercial advertisements are obstructive as they draw attention of passersby… Even a road safety sign, if not properly erected, could be a greater traffic hazard," it stated.