HC pulls up govt for sparing officials over ad licence

Removing flex are dumped in BBMP Joint Commissioner (west) office, Sampige Road, Malleshwara in Bengaluru on Thursday. Govindraj, CE, Ramesh TA, BBMP are seen. Photo by S K Dinesh

The High Court of Karnataka has pulled up the state government for taking action only against the lower staff while sparing top officials who were allegedly responsible for keeping a BBMP file on advertisement licensing unattended for a whole year. 

A division bench of Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice R Devdas ordered the chief secretary to file an affidavit on the action taken against top officials. 

This came after Additional Advocate General A S Ponnanna informed the court that show-cause notices were issued to two section officers in the Directorate of Municipal Administration, Urban Development Department, on August 4, 2018, seeking their reply in four days. 

The court was surprised to learn that only section officers were held responsible, not the top officials. “Don’t blame the section officers. The officers at the secretariat level are responsible for this. This kind of eyewash is going to create problems.” 

The court then sarcastically observed: “No Sab is responsible, only section officer is responsible.” 

The bench is hearing a batch of public interest litigation petitions that have sought the removal of unauthorised flex boards/banners/buntings in the city.

The Directorate of Municipal Administration didn’t act for a whole year on the BBMP’s request for amending Section 443(1) of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976. The BBMP recommended the amendment to raise the period for deemed permission to renew the licence of hoardings from 45 days to 90 days. 

Highlighting the government’s lackadaisical attitude, the court orally observed: “The government must work on an hourly basis, not a yearly basis.” 

It further said: “Bengaluru has to get rid of plastic and let the city look beautiful. It’s your Bengaluru, our Bengaluru and everybody’s Bengaluru. This is Silicon City (sic) which is known for culture, despite several constraints. By and large, it is a disciplined city. We are very sorry if anything conflicts to the absolute beautification of the city.” 

Highlighting the problems plaguing the city, the court noted that solid waste mismanagement is destroying lakes that supply water to lakes in Kolar and Chikkaballapur, which is creating another problem. “Your (government’s) own report says that the water is polluted. Hence, such matters have to be taken up seriously,” it remarked. 

Meanwhile, the advocate general informed the court that the final report about the assault on BBMP workers who were removing unauthorised flex boards is ready. The jurisdictional Ramamurthy Nagar police have arrested three more suspects who had escaped to Tamil Nadu. Another FIR was registered at the High Grounds police station over unauthorised flex boards. 

V Sreenidhi, the counsel for the BBMP, said the civic body, at a meeting of its council on August 6, had resolved to ban all kinds of advertisements for a year. “We are collating information after collecting it from the authorities concerned. It includes the cases registered under Karnataka Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, 1981,” he said and sought time to submit the details.

The court adjourned the hearing until Friday. 

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HC pulls up govt for sparing officials over ad licence

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