Strict implementation of SC ban on billboards in city ordered

Published October 12, 2022
The Sindh High Court has asked authorities about the procedure to grant permission for installation of billboards on private properties.—White Star
The Sindh High Court has asked authorities about the procedure to grant permission for installation of billboards on private properties.—White Star

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the authorities to ensure that no hoardings and billboards be installed or continued to exist on public properties, including roads, service lanes, bridges, underpasses, greenbelts, pedestrian walkways, sidewalks and nullahs.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Zulfiqar Ahmad Khan observed that the apex court had imposed a complete ban on installation of billboards at public places, but such hoardings were still seen across the city in violation of the Supreme Court’s judgement.

The bench also asked the provincial and local authorities to submit statements about the outcome of deliberations with stakeholders regarding the methodology of granting permissions for installation of such hoardings on private properties.

The bench issued such directives during the hearing of a set of petitions seeking implementation of the Supreme Court’s judgement handed down in 2018 against installation of billboards and hoardings on public properties.

SHC remarks giant hoardings are seen everywhere despite complete ban imposed by apex court in 2018

Some of the petitioners have also challenged the competence of cantonment boards to levy a fee on billboards installed within their jurisdiction as well as impugning Rule 10 of the Sindh Local Council Advertisement Rules, 2021 and purported amendments made in the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, alleging that the same were against the spirit of the apex court’s judgement.

The lawyers for the petitioners argued that installing billboards and hoardings on public properties were in gross contempt of SC’s judgement. The cantonment boards at the same time were illegally continuing to charge fee from the people who installed such hoardings despite lacking competence under Sections 61 and 62 of the Cantonment Board Act, 1924.

They also contended that the Sindh government had also proposed changes in the relevant laws, which were in violation of the apex court.

The counsel for the Cantonment Board Faisal argued that apart from his client, other cantonment boards had not gone through the prescribed procedure of issuing a notification under Sections 61 and 62 of the Cantonment Board Act to charge any fee.

The bench said a consensus had emerged that the judgement of the apex court had completely restrained public functionaries from installing billboards/hoardings within their jurisdictions.

“But on account of the prevailing situation such boards/hoardings are seen across the city, serious contempt of the judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court is made,” the court order said.

The bench also gave last chance to a provincial law officer to file comments on behalf of the Sindh government within a month and directed the provincial and local authorities, cantonment boards and other respondents to ensure that the judgement of the apex court was complied with in letter and spirit.

The apex court in its judgement had directed the authorities to remove all such billboards and hoardings within 45 days from public spaces and ruled that in future no permission be granted by any authority within the country to install such boards on any portion of a public property.

The Supreme Court had also directed the top federal law officer to finalise amendments to the proposed by-laws after consulting the stakeholders regarding such billboards intended to be fixed beyond public properties.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2022

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