Despite court directives, numerous complaints and public interest litigations later too, Mumbai hasn’t been freed of illegal banners. Reason: pressure from political parties that is delaying tabling of a policy to curb illegal banners, which has been ready since 2013.
The policy restricts the number of banners for any event, including Ganpati and Navratri festivals, to two and the size to 10x10ft. It also states that no political banners should be allowed during festivals. Currently, political banners are allowed within 100m of the mandap. The policy was tabled in 2016, but was referred back to the administration. According to the rule, the administration can review the policy, make changes to it or send in the original form to the improvement committee to get it passed whenever it wants.
Meanwhile, political parties continue to flout the law. In January, a month ahead of the civic elections, the BMC removed 1,028 illegal political posters and banners put up in the city. Of the 16,413 banners, boards, hoardings and flags removed by the civic body in 2016, 13,312 were political. First information reports (FIR) were filed only in 470 cases, while the police got 3,711 complaints.
Upset with civic inaction, the Bombay high court in February asked the central and state election commission if they could cancel the registration of political parties that deface public property. In their response, the BMC officials told the HC they couldn’t do much as they feared backlash from political supporters. The HC then directed the Mumbai police to provide two armed constables for such drives. However, that too hasn’t changed the situation much.
“There is competition among parties to put up hoardings. If we take action, our officers get threats. We don’t always get police protection,” said a civic official.