The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Mumbai police have finally initiated criminal action against offenders putting up illegal posters and banners in the city.
First information reports (FIRs) against 119 offenders have been registered by the police in a month, the highest so far.
The Bombay high court has been regularly hearing the matter and criticising authorities’ failure to stop the menace. It recently gave strict orders to the city police, the BMC and political parties to tackle the issue.
Until now, the BMC and the police department had been passing the buck over filing FIRs against politicians. The cases have been registered under section 3 of the Prevention of Defacement of Public Property Act (1995). This means, a person can be fined up to Rs 2,000, or imprisoned for up to three months, or both, for putting up illegal banners.
Civic officials said the number of cases in December increased because of Christmas and New Year. “During the festive season, the number of illegal banners rises, hence October and December saw the maximum cases,” said Sharad Bande, superintendent, licence department.
The high court had, in a November 2014 order, told the police to convert every complaint from the BMC into an FIR. “Our effort of removing banners and registering complaint against offenders had been pointless until now as the police never acted. More than 700 such complaints were ignored,” said a civic official.
Over the past two years, the civic licence department had been blaming the police of not co-operating in filing FIRs. In an affidavit submitted to the court, the BMC said around 4,800 illegal hoardings, posters and banners had been removed till October 2014.
Of these, more than 2,800 were religious banners, while 700 were political. The affidavit said as per their reports, only seven of the more than 100 complaints to the police station have been converted into FIRs. Meanwhile, a comprehensive banner policy that puts a blanket ban on political banners is yet to be approved by the corporator body headed by mayor Snehal Ambekar (Shiv Sena).