We’ve lost faith in govt: Madras HC on illegal hoardings
The Madras high court on Friday slammed the Tamil Nadu government over illegal hoardings put up in the state capital, a day after a 23-year-old woman software engineer came under the wheels of a water tanker and was killed when she was struck by a billboard that collapsed.
The high court asked if the state government, led by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), would take a firm stand against unauthorised billboards. It also ordered the government to pay interim compensation of ~5 lakh to the family of the victim, identified as R Subhasri.
The amount should be recovered from officials responsible for the presence
of the billboard that crashed on Subhasri when she was driving a scooter, causing her to lose her balance and come under the wheels of the water tanker, the judges said.
Pointing out that the Madras high court had passed orders limiting the number of public banners and hoardings in the past, social activist KR Ramaswamy, known as Traffic Ramaswamy, moved a contempt petition against the Tamil Nadu chief secretary on Friday, alleging that the software engineer had died because of the negligence of government officials.
A case has been registered against former AIADMK councillor C Jayagopalan under sections 336 (endangering life or personal safety of others) and 304-A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly installing the hoarding without permission, a senior police official with St Thomas Mount Traffic Investigation Wing said on the condition of anonymity.
“How many more litres of blood does the state government need to paint the roads with,” a division bench of justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee said after hearing the plea.
The court asked whether chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami would be willing to issue a statement against unauthorised banners.
“There is zero respect for lives in this country,” the court said, pointing to “sheer bureaucratic apathy.”
“We have lost faith in this government,” the court observed.
The bench then directed the Chennai city police commissioner to arrest those who may have been responsible for the accident.
The bench also said that despite a December 2018 court order directing the removal of illegal hoardings, political parties continued to put up flex banners without requisite permissions.
“Not even a single political party leader has released a statement urging their party workers not to erect banners. The court cannot run the secretariat. Is this county not safe for its citizen? We have lost our faith in the TN government,” the judges said.
The court has also advised Tamil Nadu advocate general Vijay Narayan to ask chief minister Palaniswami to issue a statement against the flex boards.
The next hearing is scheduled for September 19.
Political parties, including the AIADMK, opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) and Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), urged their party workers not to erect flex boards.
“Both in party and government, we will take measures to contain the culture of erecting flex boards,” AIADMK leader and Tamil official language minister Mafoi K Pandiarajan said.
DMK president MK Stalin has also asked his party workers not to erect illegal hoardings.
“I will not take part in the party functions if banners are erected illegally or put up in a way that disturbs public. One or two flex [boards] could be erected after getting proper permission. That should be just enough to advertise the party events,” Stalin said in a statement.