Mumbai: It took a stern order of the Bombay High Court for the country`s top municipal corporation and other civic bodies to finally remove hundreds of illegal hoardings defacing various cities of Maharashtra.
On March 13, a division bench of Justice AM Khanvilkar and Justice AP Bhangale ordered these civic bodies to remove all illegal hoarding sullying the cities within 24 hours.
The order came on a public interest litigation filed by Satara-based NGO Suswarajya Foundation.
The court also directed the civic bodies to file a compliance report by March 15.
Stung by the directives, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), Thane Municipal Corporation, Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation and Pune Municipal Corporation pounced on all illegal hoardings, not leaving any nook or corner and managed to complete most of the work within the deadline which ended on Friday.
A relieved Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) finally reported to the court that as many as 5,065 illegal hoardings were removed during the drive following the judges` orders.
The judges, who had taken suo moto cognizance of the issue after a compliance report filed by the Satara civic body, lauded the civic bodies` efforts and asked them to continue the good work in future.
"We appreciate the efforts taken by the corporations. We hope this drive is sustained; all remedial action is taken; every single hoarding is removed and future mushrooming of illegal hoardings is prevented. It is finally a loss to the state exchequer," Justice Khanvilkar said.
"This is the rule of law in action. Law was in existence prior to this also, but not implemented. On the court orders the authorities have swung into action and enforced the law," said lawyer Uday Walunjikar, appearing for petitioner Chandrashekhar Chorge whose two-year war against illegal hoardings ended successfully in Satara.
"In Satara, which is a very small city with a population of around three lakh, during one drive, the civic body removed around 500 huge illegal hoardings. They also slapped and recovered penalties of Rs 3.2 million," Chorge told a news agency.
He pointed out that if this was the small civic body`s income in just a couple of days, the revenue losses for the entire year could be phenomenal for mega municipalities such as Mumbai.
Not surprisingly, more than 50 percent of all banners removed belonged to political parties, and the rest to social and religious organisations, business groups, and others.
Chorge said that during his field research on illegal hoardings, he was stunned to see some of them as huge as 200 feet long and over 100 feet tall.
In certain instances in Mumbai and suburbs, citizens have complained in the past that huge illegal hoardings erected outside their homes have blocked their light and air for months together with no respite from the authorities.
However, since Thursday, many places in the suburbs wore a `new` look as huge hoardings were mercilessly pulled down by teams of civic workers.
In some cases, it was difficult for visitors and newcomers to locate buildings or addresses as they remained perpetually hidden behind hoardings.
Majority of the political hoardings were psychophantic and even downright silly in nature -- local leaders `congratulating` their seniors for various achievements, greeting them on birthdays, elections, festivals, some wishing students appearing for SSC/HSC exams, or getting some local works sanctioned.