SC orders removal of hoardings from public land across country

Updated October 18, 2018

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Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar wants people to place advertisements on private property. ─ File photo
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar wants people to place advertisements on private property. ─ File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has ordered removal of hoarding from public property across the country with Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar asking as to under which authority some government institutions have allowed installation of billboards in areas under their administrative control.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by the CJP on Wednesday was hearing a case initiated on a suo motu about billboards on public property in Lahore.

The SC last month issued notices to the Lahore Cantonment Board, National Logistics Cell (NLC), the National Highway Authority (NHA) and Pakistan Railways (PR) to come up with explanation about huge billboards put up in Lahore that might pose threat to public safety.

CJP Nisar questioned that under which authority billboards had been mounted in areas under administrative jurisdiction of PR and the Parks and Horticulture Authority in Lahore.

CJP questions under which authority govt institutions allow installation of giant advertising boards

“It cannot be done on public property. If people want to place advertisements, they should do it on private property”, CJP Nisar observed. He recalled that similar orders were given for Karachi.

The court ordered that billboards installed on public property across the country, including in cantonment areas, should be removed.

The CJP made it clear that the orders passed for Karachi would be applicable for the entire country. Noting that removal of billboards gave a neat and clean look to Karachi, he said the same should be done in other cities of the country as well.

Justice Ejaz-ul-Ahsan observed that in some areas billboards were put up on footpaths and that they could cause incidents. He also noted that billboards affect the landscape of a city.

The counsel representing the National Highway Authority (NHA) in the case said that the authority did not put up any billboard on any public property and that it gave the required permission in accordance with the law.

On his argument that billboards in all cities of the country were standing on the NHA’s property, the CJP asked if the authority was a private entity.

The lawyer of the cantonment board in Lahore, Latif Khosa, took the plea that the board run a hospital with money earned through the billboards. “Money should be earned by keeping the laws in mind,” the CJP remarked.

After hearing arguments, the CJP ordered authorities concerned to remove billboards on public land across Lahore within one and a half months.

A SC bench questioned the role of the country’s armed forces for developing housing societies and expressed surprise over property deals on their part for generating funds.

The court also dropped hints to develop rules and regulations on public safety that would be implemented in the entire country by ensuring structural stability of billboards and hoardings in extreme weather conditions.

While issuing notices, the court also asked the Defence Housing Authority, Lahore, the cantonment board in the city, NLC as well as the PR to submit replies and explain who gave them permission to erect billboards.

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

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2018