HC stays removal of hoardings in sub-urban areas

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Chennai, May 15: Giving a temporary respite to advertising agencies, the Madras High Court has stayed the drive by the Tamil Nadu government to pull down hoardings on the outskirts of the city.

The vacation bench comprising Justices G Rajasurya and M Sathyanarayanan, stayed the removal of hoardings erected in Tambaram, Sriperumbudur, Ambattur, Ponnamallee, Uthandi, Valasaravakkam, Ayyappanthangal, Karappakkam and Chemmancherry.

Granting interim relief to advertising agencies and individuals who petitioned the court against the local bodies move to remove the hoardings, the judges said, the legal issues involved in the matter should be considered indepth.

Initially, five advertising agencies had filed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitions against the move to remove hoardings but after the court gave a favourable interim order, several others, including individual owners, approached the court with similar pleas, and all of them have got an interim reprieve now.

While giving interim respite to the petitioners, the bench also recorded the objections of the government pleader, who argued that the April 9 order of the Supreme Court would be squarely applicable to hoardings erected outside the Chennai Municipal Corporation limits as well.

''Several petitioners did not even have the permission to put up hoardings and the PIL petitions were untenable,'' the pleader pointed out.

However, the judges, sought to differentiate between the provisions of the Madras City Municipal Corporation (MCMC) Act, which applies to hoardings within Chennai city, and the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act, that governs billboards outside the city limits.

Counsel for the petitioners said several writ petitions were filed in the High Court when government introduced certain curbs on sizes and places of hoardings.

After the court dismissed the petitions, the hoarding owners challenged the order in the Supreme Court and on April 9, the apex court upheld the amendments to the MCMC Act, paving the way for removal of all unauthorised hoardings in Chennai, he said.

''No provision of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act was under challenge either before the High Court or the Supreme Court, and also, unlike the MCMC Act, the Panchayat Act was never amended. Hence, the apex court order would not be applicable to hoardings situated outside the Chennai Corporation limits,'' counsel for the petitioners contended.

The structures of the petitioners were being removed by the local body authorities without any notice, he added.


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