Chennai: The Madras High Court on Thursday permitted the Tamil Nadu government to erect banners from the Chennai airport till Mahabalipuram town (60kms away) to welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping who will have an informal summit in the town over the next weekend.
The division bench of Justice Sathyanarayanan and Justice Seshasayee stated that permission was not required as the ban on flex banners was applicable only to political parties, while also making it clear that the banners must be erected in a manner that doesn't cause inconvenience to the public. The court also said that no political parties would be allowed to erect banners.
The state government in its affidavit submitted to the court on Tuesday said that all over the state political parties were not permitted to erect banners, but since the PM and Jinping are visiting Mahabalipuram from October 11-12 for an informal summit, as part of bilateral relations and a goodwill gesture, it is customary to erect banners to welcome the dignitaries.
The state government mentioned that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has proposed to put up welcome banners in Chennai in 14 locations, 9 locations in East Coast Road, 2 locations in Mahabalipuram. But the state government would erect banners in 5 locations in Chennai, 4 locations in Mahabalipuram and 7 locations in Old Mahabalipuram Road and East Coast Road.
“The above welcome banners will be put up from October 9-13. The welcome banners will be in places as per the specifications mentioned in the existing rules and it would be ensured that these banners would not cause any hindrance to the public. The strictest standards of safety would be maintained.”
The banner culture has been a talking point in Tamil Nadu over the last month, after the tragic death of 23-year old Subhasree, who was run over by a lorry after an illegal banner fell on her, while she was riding her bike. In 2017, the 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 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.
On Wednesday, actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan had appealed to PM Modi on Twitter, requesting him to put an end to the banner culture.
Haasan Tweeted, “Honorable @PMOIndia While Thamizh Nadu and Thamizhians are struggling to cope up with the loss of Shubasri’s death, the Thamizh Nadu Government has approached the courts to obtain permission to erect your banners. If you act as a pioneer in taking the first step to put an end to this haphazard banner culture, it will reflect your concern towards the sentiments of Thamizhians, and that in itself will garner you the greatest publicity possible. Jai Hind!”