Hazy law, growing profits drive boom in illegal ad hoardings

Hazy law, growing profits drive boom in illegal ad hoardings

An ambiguity in the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, 1976, and ever-increasing profits are driving the illegal hoarding business in the City.

In the last five years, there has been a sharp rise in illegal outdoor exhibits which now exceed the 3,000-limit permitted by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). “There are at least 4,000 illegal outdoor exhibits,” said a leading advertiser.

With an estimated turnover of Rs 100 crore per year, outdoor advertising is growing at a rate of 20 per cent per annum, say advertisers, pointing to the ever-increasing demand for hoardings.

This gap between the demand and supply is making the scam more lucrative for advertisers and officials who conveniently interpret the law to help the former. Officials in the BBMP’s advertisement wing take advantage of a lacuna in section 423(10) the KMC Act, that allows “deemed permission” for renewal or shifting of any hoarding if no decision in taken in 45 days.

The scam operates like this: An advertiser applies for shifting a hoarding. BBMP officials, instead of giving or denying permission, sit on the file for 45 days after which it is deemed to have been allowed. Then advertisers erect a new hoarding instead of shifting the existing one. Later, they obtain a court stay when officials go to remove the hoarding. BBMP’s lawyers are also hand in glove and hardly make any effort to get the stay vacated.

BBMP commissioners have also been found making use of such a legal gap to allot fresh hoardings on Palike property by waiving even the ground fee and overlooking the blanket ban on hoardings. What is more glaring is that hoardings are permitted on footpaths in gross violation of the advertising bylaw.

One such example was the sanctioning of hoardings by then BBMP commissioner M Lakshminarayana for former MLA Vatal Nagaraj’s family firm. He sanctioned seven hoardings on BBMP properties by using his powers under section 176 (1) of the KMC Act, which states: “The commissioner may dispose of by sale or exchange of any corporation movable property or grant for any term not exceeding two years, a lease of any corporation immovable property.”

Once advertisers get such permissions, they approach Bescom for power connection by showing the original allotment letter or collude with local officials.

The BBMP’s Assistant Commissioner (Advertising), K Mathai, in one of his reports has suggested amending the law to remove the ambiguity and repealing the commissioner’s discretionary power in leasing immovable property.

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