The Bombay High Court imposed a penalty of Rs 20,000 and above each on 15 political workers belonging to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and BJP, including two MLAs, for putting up illegal hoardings and directed that the money be donated for welfare of drought-hit farmers.
Hearing two petitions challenging the practise of political parties displaying illegal hoardings as part of their propaganda, a division bench, headed by Justice Abhay Oka, said that the penalty amount may be donated to an organisation or an NGO working for welfare of farmers.
The Judges asked the respondents to submit demand drafts on February 26 for sums ranging from Rs 20,000 and above for a social cause.
Among the political workers who were penalised, one belonged to MNS. The rest were from BJP which leads the coalition government in Maharashtra and at the Centre.
Sachin Gunjar, the lone MNS worker who had displayed a hoarding without seeking permission of the civic authorities, was asked to pay Rs 20,000, in addition to the amount he wished to donate.
Twelve others of BJP were also asked to pay Rs 20,000 each plus personal donation, while two more of the same party, including Mumbai unit chief and MLA Ashish Shelar and Mumbai MLA Parag Alvani were asked to pay Rs 25,000 each, in addition to the amount they wished to give for farmers welfare.
The bench was hearing petitions filed by SuSwaraj Foundation and Bhagwanji Riyani of Janhit Manch against illegal hoardings.
All these political workers admitted through their lawyers that they had put up hoardings and banners without the permission of the civic authorities and tendered an unconditional apology.
They also assured the high court that they would not do so in future.
However, the high court asked the respondents to file a written undertaking to this effect.
Earlier, the high court had asked the political parties not to put up illegal posters, banners and hoardings in the city or else it would issue contempt notices to them for violating rules and defacing the mega-polis.
The bench said that it did not intend to send the violators to prison for displaying illegal hoardings/banners but would invoke such an action that would deter them from taking the step again.
The PILs alleged that political parties, in total
disregard to the rules and laws, had put up illegal hoardings and banners all over Maharashtra, defacing private and public properties in the towns and cities.
The bench said the parties had violated their own undertakings by putting up hoardings and banners without permission of the civic authorities and despite notices issued to them by the court commissioners appointed to check this practise.
“It is painful to hear that despite assurances such practise continues… We will take stern action against the concerned,” the bench said.
Earlier, NCP, Congress, Shiv Sena and MNS had filed separate undertakings in affidavits to the high court assuring that their workers would not put up such illegal hoardings, posters and banners.
In response to high court orders, the political parties had even issued advertisements in local newspapers asking their party workers to refrain from putting up posters without permission of authorities.
The petitions claimed that political parties were not taking permission from the local authorities to put up hoardings and banners and thus did not pay the necessary charges.