States, UTs not to give nod for statues at public places: SC



New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday restrained all the state governments and Union Territories from granting permission for erecting statues or construction of any structure at public places which obstructs traffic movement, saying citizens' right to move freely can't be taken away.

"Public interest must be paramount. Public road is nobody's property. Each and every citizen has a right to move freely on roads. That right cannot be taken away by putting statues, temples, mosques, churches etc... Such a practice must be done away with," a bench comprising justices RM Lodha and SJ Mukhopadhaya said.

The court said instead of using the funds for glorifying someone, why can't that be used for upliftment of poor.

"Why don't you utilise the funds for the upliftment of poor. Why this public money for glorifying someone?" the bench asked.

The remarks were made by the bench while dealing with an application against the Kerala Government which has granted permission for erection of a statue of the late Congress leader N Sundaram Nadar on the traffic island at Neyyattinkara junction on a national highway in Thiruvananthapuram district.

The bench said the state government will immediately halt further work for the statue till further orders. "Until further orders, we direct that status quo be maintained where the statue is permitted to be installed," the bench said.

"Henceforth, the Kerala government would not grant any permission for statue or construction of any structure at public places, roads or places of public utility," it said.

The bench clarified that "this would not apply for installation of traffic utility structures like street lights etc" which facilitate smooth traffic movement.

"The above order shall also apply to all other states and Union Territories," the bench said.

The application was filed in a pending petition in which the Supreme Court had already directed all the state governments to remove unauthorised constructions including places of worships from roads and public places.

The bench, which questioned the Kerala government for allowing the statue at the traffic island, said it "actually has to examine the policy of the state" as "we have our doubt whether such permission can be granted for installation of statue on the National Highway.

At the outset, the bench said "no such structures like temples, mosques, churches etc should come on street".

It said without disturbing the law and order situation, these unauthorised structures should be removed.

PTI