After the HC ban on banners, political parties and business houses have switched over to wall posters, and are mindlessly mutilating city walls, even as the Chennai Corporation looks the other way
Even though the present norms of the State government and the Chennai Corporation entail the civic body to regulate wall posters and collect advertisement tax from those sticking posters in public places, the officials are refusing to take any action. “Due to the apathy of the officials, the civic body continues to forgo the revenue that can be generated by regulating the wall posters. Apart from the revenue loss, the unchecked proliferation of wall poster culture also causes other expenditure to the city administration, as the onus on removing posters lies with the civic body,” said GM Shankar, an activist based in Madipakkam.
In a petition sent to G Prakash, Chennai Corporation Commissioner, Shankar pointed out that the second amendment to Tamil Nadu Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, 1959 and Chennai City Municipal Corporation Act, 1919, entitle the civic body to allow wall posters and wall paintings only after collecting charges from the advertisers. If sticking of wall posters or writings/paintings on the walls are done without prior permission, the civic body should impose a penalty and take legal action.
According to the Tamil Nadu Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, “Whoever affixes to, or inscribes or exhibits on, any place open to public view any advertisement without the written consent of the owner or occupier or person in the management of the property in which such place is situated shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both (sic).” As per the Chennai City Municipal Corporation Act, “any person who erects, exhibits, fixes or retains upon over any land, building, wall, hoarding, or structure any advertisement, or who displays any advertisement to public view in any manner whatsoever in any place, whether public or private, should pay on every advertisement which is so erected, exhibited, fixed retained or displayed to public view (sic).
Even though the two Acts clearly specify the norms to be followed, the civic body officials are pretending to be blissfully ignorant of the rules, and there is no clarity on the department responsible for taking action against the violators or issuing permits as part of regulating the wall posters. “We were giving permission to the advertisers until a few years ago and putting the Corporation seal on them to help identify the approved wall posters and the unapproved ones. However, these days we are not doing it, though we take action and remove the wall posters whenever we receive complaints from the residents,” said a Corporation official. He added that the expenses of removing them are met by the civic body.
Another official pointed out that the advertisers must receive a No-Objection Certificate from the traffic police, based on which the Chennai Corporation would be collecting advertisement tax. “But very rarely we receive such applications for paying advertisement tax for sticking wall posters. This suggests that the wall posters across the city are pasted without police permission. As per the rules, wall posters and wall paintings should not be allowed on both public and private walls,” he concurred.
The demand for collecting charges and advertisement tax on wall posters and wall paintings has come at a time when the civic body is struggling to earn expected revenue through property tax collection. The Chennai Corporation’s property tax revenue has come down after the state government withheld property tax revision. GM Shankar opined that most of the wall posters are pasted by local leaders of the political parties to publicise their proximity to the top leaders or the position they are holding in the party. “Some party members have enough black money to spend on these to promote themselves. They should be considered as ‘waste generators’,” he said in his petition.
M Vishnu, a resident of Choolaimedu, said that the civic body should earmark designated spots for sticking posters. “Instead of allowing wall posters to be pasted across the city without any check, the civic body should earmark designated spots to stick advertisement posters. This would prevent defacement of public places,” he said.
It was only after the tragic death of a 23-year-old techie, Subhasri Ravi, and following the Madras High Court directive, that the Chennai Corporation, in December 2018, stopped issuing permission for hoardings and banners. Subhasri, a resident of Chrompet, died after an illegal life-size hoarding put up by a local leader of a political party fell on her, following which her father moved the High Court seeking enactment of a special law to give maximum punishment to those putting up illegal hoardings in public places. Is the Chennai Corporation awaiting another court intervention to end bureaucratic apathy in doing away with the wall posters too?
- Persons, who display any type of advertisement to the public view should pay tax on every advertisement
- Advertisement tax should be paid irrespective of the place of advertisement, whether public or private place
- Advertisements pertaining to public meetings, elections, candidates are exempted from the tax
- If an unapproved advertisement is made, the owner of the building/s will be held responsible
- Advertisements should be removed by the advertisers soon after the expiry of the permitted period