Days after the AIADMK blocked pedestrian access to footpaths in Chennai, the Madras High Court has intervened, ordering the removal of illegal banners in the city. Ahead of the birth centenary celebrations of former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran at the YMCA Grounds in the city, the ruling party had put up several banners and flex boards that not only forced pedestrians to walk alongside high speed traffic but also created several bottlenecks in the city.
Anna Salai, the arterial road that connects the heart of the city to various areas, was seen stashed with row upon row of tall banners precariously placed on footpaths, on either side of the road. In addition to the banners, the wooden poles holding them up were intertwined along the footpath, completely cutting off access.
Several bus stops on Anna Salai, from Nandanam to Saidapet, were ‘invisible’ owing to the sheer number of banners that they had been covered in. Commuters were forced to wait for their bus in the sun, outside the bus stops.
On Sunday, following a petition by civic activist Traffic Ramaswamy, Madras High Court Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad reminded the Chennai Corporation of the statute already present with regard to the installation of banners.
The special bench said, “When a statutory provision cast duty on the commissioner of Chennai Corporation to remove and confiscate unauthorised banners and hoardings erected in contravention of statute, the said duty has to be discharged in its letter and spirit. The statute does provides for punishment with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or fine uptown Rs 10,000 or both.”
Further, the Court stated that it had not been notified whether any penal action has been taken on persons who had violated the statute.
A permission letter, granted by the Chennai Corporation, which was pasted on one of the banners states, “No digital banners or placards shall be permitted on both sides of the road having a footpath of less than ten feet width. In roads with no separate footpath, a minimum of ten feet width shall be available between the road margin and the digital banners or placards for the use of pedestrians.”
The Court directed the Corporation Commissioner to file a report in this regard on October 8.