Coming down heavily on the Tamil Nadu government over illegal hoardings, the Madras High Court on Friday wondered how many more lives should be lost as a result of such banners, endangering the lives of the people. A day after a 23-year-old woman techie riding a two-wheeler was run over by a water tanker as she lost balance and fell down after an illegal hoarding put up by a ruling AIADMK functionary crashed down on her on an arterial suburban road here, the court asked the government if it would take a firm stand against such unauthorized banners.
"How many more liters of blood the state government needs to paint the roads with?" a division bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee wondered. The court also directed the state to pay Rs five lakh as interim compensation to the victim's family, with the liberty to recover it from erring officials.
It directed the government to take appropriate action, including disciplinary, against officials concerned, both from the police department and the Corporation of Chennai. The court asked whether at least now Chief Minister K Palaniswami would be willing to issue a statement against such unauthorized banners.
"There is zero respect for lives in this country," the court said, pointing to "sheer bureaucratic apathy." "We have lost faith in this government," the court observed. The observations were made when the bench heard a plea by social activist 'Traffic' Ramaswamy and an urgent mentioning by advocates V Lakshminarayanan and V Kannadasan.
They brought to the court's notice the woman's death on Thursday following crashing of the illegal hoarding. "Just imagine (what) the girl could have contributed to the GDP of this nation. Couldn't that politician have conducted the family marriage without banners?" the court asked.
At least now the political parties must start a movement against such illegalities, the court said. Later, during the near day-long hearing, Advocate General Vijay Narayan informed the court that both the ruling and the opposition parties have issued statements, urging their cadres to refrain from erecting banners without permission and thereby causing inconvenience to the public.
Recording the same, the bench asked him why the political parties should not file an undertaking to the court to this effect, instead of releasing media statements. "We have already made all the recognized political parties as a party respondent to the case.. why shouldn't they file an undertaking?" the bench asked.
The AG informed the court that the government decided to organize a joint drive by the corporation and traffic police to remove all the unauthorized banners in the city. However, in the future, field-level monitoring can only be done by the traffic police as the corporation lacks manpower and other resources to do that, he said.
Pulling up the local police inspector, who was present in the court, the bench asked him why he waited for the victim's father to register a complaint when he himself could have done that. The court wondered whether the color of the flags installed in the road prevented the police from taking action against the illegal banners, in an apparent reference to the ruling party.
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