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Bommai ‘flexes’ political muscle in Bengaluru; CM unaware of High Court ban?

Bommai 'flexes' political muscle in Bengaluru; CM unaware of High Court ban?

It has been over two months since Basavaraj Bommai assumed charge as the Chief Minister of Karnataka. In his short tenure so far, the CM has earned plaudits for several decisions like banning zero traffic for his convoy while travelling in the city. He also banned the practice of presenting garlands, shawls, bouquets and memorabilia at government events, terming it an ‘unnecessary expenditure’. But it seems like the Chief minister is blissfully unaware of a High Court order banning flex banners in BBMP limits.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai’s banner near Rajajinagar in Bengaluru.

Street lights, bus stops, and Metro pillars are all covered with political banners of Bommai. BMTC buses in the city are also covered with government schemes featuring Bommai’s picture. Some of these banners are erected on road dividers which are causing problems to the commuters.

Bommai and Minister Suresh Kumar’s banner put up at a underpass near Shivanagar.

 These banners have mushroomed in several areas of Bengaluru like Rajarajeshwari Nagar, Nagarabhavi and Kottigepalya.

Banners featuring CM Bommai and Horticulture Minister Munirathna in Rajarajeshwari Nagar.

 Bommai on Sunday inaugurated several developmental projects in Horticulture Minister Munirathna’s constituency Rajarajeshwari Nagar. The entire area turned saffron with BJP flags, cut outs and banners surfacing in every nook and corner of the area. It has been several days since the event concluded, but the banners and flags are yet to be removed.

Some of these banners pose a danger to pedestrians and commuters as they are erected on corners of roads and poles. A strong gust of wind could easily cause the banners to fall on vehicles or passers by.

“We were relieved after these banners had disappeared, but now they are back and besides being an eyesore, they are a threat to the public. Why isn’t BBMP following the High Court’s orders?” Vani Srinivas, a resident of RR Nagar told News9.

Advertisement mafia

In 2015, erecting cut outs, banners and buntings was rampant in Bengaluru which had by then become a multi-crore business. Illegal advertisements had become a menace destroying the natural beauty of the city. BBMP officials too had turned a blind eye to it. A complaint was also filed in Lokayukta. The then Upa Lokayukta of Karnataka, Justice Subhash Adi had ordered Lokayukta police to conduct an inquiry, but there has been little to headway even after six years. Justice Adi had also given a deadline to the BBMP to remove illegal hoardings but the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is yet to act.

PIL in the High Court

In 2018, RTI activist Sai Datta had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Karnataka High Court against the illegal advertisement hoardings in the city.

After hearing the plea, a division bench of the High Court had given an interim order banning illegal hoardings in public places which could affect the beauty of the city. The High Court is yet to give its verdict in the case.

After the High Court order, BBMP had cracked down on illegal hoardings, banners, cut outs and passed a resolution banning them in the city limits in 2018.

Meanwhile, BBMP last year tried to bring BBMP Advertisement Rules which could allow these hoardings back in the city to increase its revenue but it could not be passed in the Council.

On the last day of his tenure the then Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, had given permission for erecting hoardings despite the High Court order. The petitioner had again approached the High Court against the government order but later the Bommai government realised its mistake and withdrew it.

Speaking with News9, petitioner Sai Datta said that the government withdrew its order only after a writ petition was filed in the High Court.

“The High Court interim’s order is very clear. One cannot erect banners, cut outs, bunting in the BBMP limits. The BBMP tried to pass a resolution which was not allowed by the court,” Datta said.

Speaking on the re-emergence of the banners and cutouts, Datta said he will be writing a letter to the Chief Minister regarding the issue.

“The banners, cut outs have again resurfaced in the city. I have drafted a letter to the Chief Minister to make him aware of the High Court order. I will be handing over the letter to the CM in the next two days. Even after that if things don’t change, I will file another writ petition in the High Court.”

Despite the High Court orders, officials too have not taken action on these illegal hoardings and banners. If the matter reaches court, it might press contempt charges.

BBMP commissioner Gaurav Gupta did not respond to our calls and messages on the issue.

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