KARACHI: Charges will be framed against the chief executive officers of cantonment boards and the administrators of Karachi municipal and district municipal corporations if they fail to uproot within three days all hoarding and signboards from public properties, declared the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday.

A three-judge SC bench, headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim, said the officials concerned would be indicted for contempt of court if all licensed and unlicensed hoarding and signboards were not removed from public properties within the next three days.Earlier in May, the apex court had clamped a complete ban on the grant of permission by any competent authority to install billboard/hoarding on any portion of public place or property in Karachi with a directive to the relevant authorities to immediately remove all the billboards/hoardings within 15 days.

As the deadline expired on June 30, the apex court last week granted some more time to the Defence Housing Authority, the cantonment boards, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, district municipal corporations and other civic bodies for taking down such billboards.

‘Heads of cantonment boards, KMC and DMCs to be indicted if they fail to meet deadline’

At the outset of hearing on Friday, Justice Muslim asked additional attorney general Salman Talibuddin and Sindh advocate general Barrister Zamir Ghumro if the billboards/hoardings had been pulled down during the time granted by the court.

Mr Talibuddin contended that 98 per cent of the hoardings had been removed from the limits of the federal civic agencies.

However, the bench observed that city’s main arteries including Sharea Faisal and Korangi Road were still dotted with such billboards.

KMC administrator Laeeq Ahmed informed the Supreme Court that the areas came within the limits of Cantonment Board Karachi.

The bench deplored that the officials were shifting responsibility on one another. When the bench called the CBK chief executive officer to explain why the court order had not been complied with, it was informed that the officer was out of the country.

Expressing resentment over the CEO’s absence, the bench noted that how he could proceed abroad when it was known that the matter was fixed in the apex court.

The judges remarked that the conduct of the authorities concerned had left them with no choice but to frame contempt of court charges against all those responsible.

Granting yet another chance, the apex court asked the heads of the six cantonment boards in Karachi, the DHA, the administrators of KMC and the six DMCs besides other civic agencies to remove all the billboards and hoardings across the city within three days.

The bench made it clear that they would indict the heads of the civic bodies, cantonment boards and other relevant authorities in whose jurisdictions billboards/hoardings were found intact.

Justice Muslim told the law officers representing the cantonment boards, the KMC, the DMCs and other agencies that if the billboards were not removed within the given period the relevant officers would be held responsible without the issuance of show-cause notices.

The proceedings were initiated in 2011 on an application filed by a cantonment board that had challenged the Sindh High Court order that the cantonment board could not levy advertisement tax on outdoor billboards and hoardings within its jurisdiction.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2016