A day after 23-year-old Chennai techie Subhasri was killed in a road accident after an illegal flex board fell on her, the Madras High Court on Friday directed the Tamil Nadu government and the Chennai Corporation to take disciplinary action against officials who failed to take action against the erection of such hoardings. The High Court also ordered that investigation reports be filed by the St Thomas Mount police, and the Corporation. It also directed Chennai Police Commissioner to monitor the investigations.
The division bench comprising of Justice Seshasayee and Sathyanarayanan also ordered the state government to pay an interim compensation of Rs 5 lakh to Subhasri’s family. The court observed that the money be recovered from those officials who failed to prevent the illegal flex boards from coming up.
“The state government is directed to pay an interim compensation of Rs 5 lakhs to the father of the victim girl. It is open to recover the same from the concerned officials who may be found guilty of negligence, infractions and inaction of the relevant rules, laws, regulations, directions and orders. Commissioner of Police has to monitor the investigation of the two cases filed in the above regard. Pallikaranai and St Thomas Mount police stations traffic wing has to file status report as to the progress of investigation,” reads the order.
Stating that the High Court would continuously monitor the case, the judges said, “The Corporation and the police have failed in their duties. Had they don’t their job, a life would not have been lost. Already the HC’s orders have not been implemented as assured to us. The Chief Secretary and the Corporation Commissioner have not kept their word.”
The High Court passed orders on a contempt petition filed by activist ‘Traffic’ KR Ramaswamy over the Tamil Nadu government’s failure to check illegal hoardings despite a court order banning them. While the court had slammed the state government in the morning hearing, post lunch the judges pulled up the police for failing to implement its orders.
HC pulls up Chennai police
When the matter resumed post lunch, Chennai Police Commissioner AK Viswanathan and Greater Chennai Corporation Commissioner G Prakash appeared before the bench. The AG informed the court that action had been taken against the driver of the water tanker than ran over Subhasri and that an FIR would be registered against the person who erected the illegal hoardings. The government’s counsel also informed the HC that most parties had issued statements against flex boards.
Terming the banner culture a ‘menace’, the bench asked how officials would curb the practice. “It isn’t necessary for a woman to die for officials to act against illegal flex boards,” observed the court. Responding, the AG said the police together with the Corporation would conduct mass drives against illegal banners. The state government’s counsel also added that the traffic police would ensure no banner or flex board is erected without permission.
The High Court also pulled up the police for delaying registering an FIR in Subhasri’s case. Pointing out that the accident took place at 2.30pm, the judges asked why it took police four hours to register and FIR. The AG, however, responded that the police received information only at 4.30pm.
CCTV footage of the accident
“Anybody can set criminal law in motion. Father of the victim need not have lodged a complaint. Why didn't the traffic police lodge the complaint? Are police officers prohibited from lodging complaints?” rebutted the HC.
The Pallikarnai Inspector informed the court that four flex boards were erected at the spot when asked how many were put up. The HC, however, lashed out at the police stating that photographs in the media had showed that the number was more. The judges also pointed out, “Don't you know flex boards require No Objection Certificates? Why didn't the local police act against those flex boards?”
“Without NOC from traffic police flex boards cannot be erected. Despite knowing that what prevented the police from removing those flex boards. Is it the colour of the political party flags on it?” slammed the bench.
Citing the death of Raghunath in Coimbatore in 2017 due to an illegal hoarding, the High Court also asked the government what disciplinary action had been taken against the officials then.
The High Court has adjourned the case to September 25.