KARACHI: The Supreme Court (SC) ordered on Tuesday the district and sessions’ judges to verify the civic agencies’ claims of removing the outdoor advertising billboards and hoardings across the metropolis in compliance of the court’s order.
The apex court also directed the district and sessions’ judges of Karachi’s six districts to submit their reports regarding inspection in their respective districts within a month. A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim, passed these directives while hearing a case regarding advertising billboards at SC’s Karachi Registry. The bench further observed that the outdoor advertising billboards or hoardings cannot be allowed to be installed or hanged even on private properties as those could also pose threats to the lives and property of the public.
Declaring installation of the giant outdoor advertising billboards on public property illegal and hazardous to citizens, the SC had, on May 6, ordered the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), the Korangi, Clifton, Faisal and Karachi cantonment boards and other civic agencies to remove them within one month.
Expressing annoyance over non-implementation of its orders in letter and spirit after the deadline expired, the court gave the authorities another 15 days to also remove the structures that were left hanging atop the buildings and electricity poles.
On the last hearing, the judges had warned to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the heads of the relevant cantonment boards, the district municipal corporations and all others, in whose areas the billboards and their structures were found intact in violation of the court’s repeated orders. All of them were given three days to comply with previous orders.
During Tuesday’s proceedings, the additional attorney-general and the provincial advocate-general filed reports of the authorities concerned regarding compliance of the directives.
Federal law officer Salman Talibuddin maintained that the court’s directives had fully been complied with by the cantonment boards and other agencies and the billboards had been removed from the public places. He added that it had been a practice that the advertising agencies were helping the administration in providing amenities – such as building pedestrian bridges – and in return, they were allowed to display their advertising content on such bridges. All this is being done in accordance with the draft laws, he argued.
The bench, however, did not agree and clarified that distraction caused by these advertising billboards on the roads cannot be allowed in any case.
Advocate Javed Mir, the counsel for the outdoor advertising agencies, informed the court that the agencies were utilising the spaces on the bridges under contract signed with the KMC. The judges asked the KMC commissioner to explain that with whose permission the contract was signed with the advertising agencies.
Billboards on private property
While taking up the matter later, the bench members enquired as to why the billboards installed on private property were still intact. Clifton cantonment officials informed that they could not remove those boards erected on private properties.
The bench observed that the outdoor advertising billboards or hoardings cannot be allowed to be installed or hanged on private properties either as those could also pose threats to the lives and property of the public. Therefore, it ordered that all such billboards should also be taken down.
In order to verify the status regarding implementation of its order in letter and spirit, as claimed by the federal, provincial and local authorities, the SC bench appointed the district and sessions judges to carry out inspections of the public places in their respective districts. It ordered them to carry out physical inspections of such sites and submit their reports within one month.