Chennai: Weeks after the death of 23-year old techie Subhashree in Chennai, as an illegal banner fell on her scooter and a truck ran over her, the Chennai Police has arrested AIADMK functionary Jayagopal, who was absconding, from Krishnagiri district. The banner that fell on Subhashree was illegally erected along the stretch of Pallikaranai Radial road, for a wedding in Jayagopal’s house. Chennai Police had filed two cases against Jayagopal — one for illegally putting up the banners, and another one for causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means under Section 326 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Police said Jayagopal is being brought to Chennai, where he will be produced before a court. Following the techie’s tragic death, there was widespread outrage on social media and the Madras High Court too had lashed out at the state’s political parties for allowing the banner culture to persist. The court had also ordered an interim compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the girl’s family. The Court also ordered the Commissioner of police to monitor the investigation of the two cases filed in the above regard.
The severe criticism and harsh remarks from the court had prompted leaders of major parties to issue statements to their respective cadre on refraining from the culture of erecting banners and cut-outs. DMK president MK Stalin issued a statement asking his cadre that cut-outs and banners not be used for party events and that violators will face stringent action. He also added that he would not participate in an event if banners are found to be erected.
AIADMK leaders EPS-OPS issued a joint statement that said, cadre shouldn’t erect banners that inconvenience the public, over-enthusiastic cadres put up banners without knowing the adverse impact on public. They also requested cadres not to erect banners/flex boards at party or family events, that might cause inconvenience to the public.
The illegal banner culture has been rampant in Tamil Nadu, where banners and flagpoles are erected in the footpaths, on the arterial stretches of the city and along medians. Predominantly, the banners or flagpoles are erected to welcome visiting political leaders, commemorate an occasion or to showcase a particular candidate’s loyalty to his/her party leadership.
This practice has been going on across Tamil Nadu despite repeated warnings by the Madras High court. In 2017, the high court had banned hoardings and flex boards featuring living persons, however, the banner culture has continued to block pedestrian walkways and arterial roads unabated.
In December 2018, the Madras High Court restrained all the political parties in Tamil Nadu from erecting digital banners and hoardings on arterial roads posing a risk to road users and pedestrians, until further orders.
Those erecting banners and such cut outs are liable to be punished under the Tamil Nadu Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act and the and the Tamil Nadu Urban Local Bodies (Permission for erection of Digital Banners and Placards) Rules.
A similar incident had taken place in 2017, in Tamil Nadu’s second largest city Coimbatore when a techie who had come to his hometown from the US to meet prospective brides had crashed his bike into a wooden hovering set up for the MGR centenary celebrations. As Ragupathy hit the structure and fell off his bike, a truck ran over him. This incident had caused severe outrage on social media with many netizens asking “Who killed Ragu?”