They have ruined the look of Mumbai, turned even its heritage buildings into eyesores, and just last year, the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court Swatanter Kumar angrily asked the BMC if it had demolished even a single illegal hoarding.
The Chief Justice was angry again on Thursday, this time over illegal hoardings in Thane. “Why do you need to remove it? Put it in the middle of the road,” CJ Swatanter Kumar said while hearing a public interest litigation on illegal hoardings, banners and cutouts, especially those put up by political parties, in Thane.
The CJ’s remarks come just ahead of Gokulasthami, the Ganesh festival and the run-up to the Assembly polls — a time when illegal hoardings are expected to come up in large numbers in Mumbai and Thane.
The court has asked Thane municipal commissioner Nandkumar Jantre, assistant commissioner Krishna Nikute and deputy commissioner B.G. Pawar to pay a fine of Rs 5,000 each for their inaction in the matter and directed the civic body to demolish illegal hoardings in two weeks. The Thane Municipal Corporation must also ensure that no new illegal hoardings, banners or cutouts come up in the city, the division bench of the CJ and Justice A M Khanwilkar ordered.
The fine amount has to be paid from the salaries of the civic officials and must be submitted to the Maharashtra State Legal Aid Services Authority, a state body that provides free legal aid free to those who can’t afford it.
Various PILs have been filed in the last few years against illegal hoardings in Mumbai and Thane, and detailed orders passed by the court with regard to Mumbai have been flouted routinely. “Look what you people [municipal corporations] have brought the courts to, and what we people are doing,” the CJ said while going through photographs of hoardings attached by Thane resident Prabhakar Chaudhary who has filed the PIL. The CJ said some of the hoardings were placed in such a way that people had to walk on the roads.