Multiple citizen complaints have forced municipal authorities to undertake measures to curb the unauthorised erection of billboards in the city
The rules/bye-laws framed under the municipal statutes prescribe the procedure for obtaining permission for erecting hoardings. They include provisions regarding payment of prescribed rental charges, the sizes of hoardings, conditions under which hoardings would be permitted, areas/spaces where they would be forbidden and penalties for contravention of rules. Any application seeking permission to erect a hoarding must submit a site plan indicating the location of the hoarding, the design of the hoarding verified by a structural engineer and a no objection certificate from the traffic police. Illuminated or electronic advertisements have to observe the limits placed on the level of luminance to avoid impairing the vision of drivers and pedestrians. Many cities also have detailed policy guidelines separately framed that guide both the municipal body and the advertisers on the subject of hoardings. For instance, the Outdoor Advertisement Policy 2018 of the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation details the types of outdoor advertisements. It clarifies that the hoardings would get examined from the points of ensuring road safety and city aesthetics. It discourages visual clutter and does not want the advertisements to degrade the city’s aesthetic urban fabric, skyline, and architecture. In Bengaluru, the new Advertisement Rules allow the erection of billboards up to 82 feet and a size of 60x30 square feet On roads, 30 metres wide, hoardings could be 59 feet or 18 metres high. However, no advertisement hoardings are permitted on certain city roads. There could be several problems associated with hoardings. Firstly, they could be bad for the aesthetics of an area. If erected in front of a tree or a building ungainly, the impact could be the defacement of that area. If proper care is not taken while placing them, they could lead to accidents. For example, in 2018, in Pune, a metal hoarding frame collapsed, killing four people. Furthermore, they may block the view of traffic signals or moving traffic. Uncontrolled permission to hoardings may lead to entire areas being completely cluttered with such outdoor eyesores. Cites, therefore, need to conduct a detailed survey regarding where they would allow hoardings and where they would not. A committee of experts could be set up advising the municipal body about such aspects as location, size, aesthetics, language, luminance, and desirability. Based on the advice, they could permit or disallow a hoarding. Buildings that intend to use their façade for advertisements may be required to design spaces during construction itself that would not lead to any defacement. In Mumbai, the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) has formulated guidelines under Bombay High Court directives about displaying hoardings on heritage buildings in their open spaces and heritage precincts. The general tenor of these guidelines is to either disallow or restrict displays within such heritage areas. No hoardings are permitted on heritage structures, in their compounds or in open spaces in category ‘A’. Controls prescribed regarding other categories of listed heritage structures are less severe. Still, several precautions have to be observed.
Any application seeking permission to erect a hoarding must submit a site plan indicating the location of the hoarding, the design of the hoarding verified by a structural engineer and a no objection certificate from the traffic police.
However, the biggest problem that cities face today regarding hoardings is their unauthorised erection which encumbers city streets. This is not a one-city phenomenon but has been encountered in Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Indore, and many other cities. It would be difficult to find a city that has escaped unauthorised hoardings. Many of these have the backing of local politicians. Prominent themes in these sky signs are birthday celebrations of political figures, welcome boards for the arrival of significant political leaders and messages of good wishes by local political functionaries, especially during religious and cultural festivals. Before a major political event in any city, city roads, road dividers, sidewalks, and trees are plastered with political messaging. Agitated citizens have taken this matter to the courts that have passed judgments to prevent and remove illegal hoardings. In a 2017 judgment, the Bombay High Court acknowledged that the involvement of the political class makes the job of the municipal officers and police very difficult when it comes to taking action against the illegal sky signs and setting the criminal law in motion against wrongdoers. Despite this, the High Court wanted city defacement through illegal hoardings, banners, arches, and other kinds of such sky signs to be halted. In 2022, the Bombay High Court further directed the state government and all civic bodies in the state, including municipal corporations and councils, to report on the steps taken to remove illegal banners, hoardings, posters, arches, and advertisements. The court asked the authorities to file an affidavit with a list of illegal hoardings and information on how much revenue is generated from legal hoardings. Similarly, the Karnataka High Court in October 2021 directed the state government to ensure that no display boards or unauthorised advertisements/hoardings of political functionaries and leaders are displayed in public. Courts have passed similar orders in other states.
A committee of experts could be set up advising the municipal body about such aspects as location, size, aesthetics, language, luminance, and desirability.
In the new advertisement policy of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), public display of hoardings, banners or paintings on the walls in non-designated areas of the city could be punished by imposing a jail term. Similarly, in Delhi, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has framed a new policy that places a ban on advertisements that distract road commuters by promoting nudity, racism, drugs, cruelty to animals or any kind of violence. A similar prohibition is imposed on advertisements in national parks, historical monuments, world heritage areas, and religious places. The Supreme Court approved this new policy and directed expeditious implementation. The menace of advertisement hoardings is not likely to go unchallenged by citizens, and the courts have taken up the issue in all seriousness. Therefore, the municipal administration will have to move decisively against unauthorised erections that either jeopardise human safety or add clutter to city streets. Political parties are expected to take cognisance of the public opinion and the courts’ ire and direct their cadres to observe discipline and follow due process before they put up hoardings.
The Bombay High Court further directed the state government and all civic bodies in the state, including municipal corporations and councils, to report on the steps taken to remove illegal banners, hoardings, posters, arches, and advertisements.
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Dr. Ramanath Jha is Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai. He works on urbanisation — urban sustainability, urban governance and urban planning. Dr. Jha belongs ...Read More +