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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has directed the Lahore Cantonment Board (LCB) and Defence Housing Authority (DHA), National Logistics Cell (NLC), National Highway Authority (NHA) and Pakistan Railways (PR) to give explanation about huge billboards put up in the provincial capital that may pose a threat to public safety.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar also questioned the role of the armed forces in developing housing societies and expressed surprise over property deals on their part for generating funds.

During the hearing of a suo motu case on installations of huge billboards in Lahore, the court indicated that it might ask departments concerned to formulate rules and regulations on public safety that would be implemented in the country to ensure structural stability of billboards and hoardings in extreme weather conditions.

Questions role of armed forces in developing housing societies, expresses surprise over property deals on their part for generating funds

The court issued notices to the DHA and Cantonment Board of Lahore, NLC and PR asking them to submit replies in 10 days and explain who gave them the permission to install billboards.

In addition, the top court directed the commissioner of Lahore city to issue notices to organisations for removing billboards and cautioned that in case such notices were not acted upon, the commissioner should inform the court.

The court observed that housing societies should be developed by the armed forces for their own employees or jawans and for the martyrs. “But how come senior officers get involved in housing societies and then sell plots to common people,” the court wondered.

When huge billboards and hoardings had to be removed from the metropolitan city of Karachi on the court orders, the chief justice wondered, how it could not be removed from Lahore.

“Panflexes with portraits of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders, including proposed governor of Punjab Chaudhry Sarwar, are hanging on every lamppost along Lahore’s Mall Road,” the chief justice regretted.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial, a member of the bench, said that billboards sometimes created traffic hazards and might result in accidents, particularly those playing advertisement videos posed a distraction to drivers.

Representing the LCB, senior lawyer Sardar Latif Khosa said that since no government granted monetary assistance, cantonment boards had to generate funds to run their affairs and provide facilities and amenities to people residing in the areas earmarked as the cantonment.

The counsel said that 30 per cent of the Cantonment Hospital’s expenditure was met from such billboards.

When the court asked whether the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) was putting up billboards, Additional Director General of the body Naheed Gul Baloch replied that the department had not installed a single billboard.

In 2010, Ms Baloch said, the authority had removed 1,304 billboards because no one had obtained permission to install the boards.

The official recalled that cases had been registered against the employees of the PHA for removing billboards and, as an instance, mentioned a case pending in the court.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2018