The Madras High Court today did not hold back in censuring the state government over the continuing erection of political banners, flex boards, and hoardings, despite Court orders imposing a ban on the same..“What moral or legal right do you [political parties] have to put them [the public] to peril?”, the Court asked.The remark was made in the backdrop of 23-year-old Subhashree’s death on Thursday, after a digital banner installed by a local AIADMK leader fell on her as she was travelling on her scooter. Subhashree had fallen on the road because of the banner’s fall, following which a lorry passing by ran her over, causing her death..Amidst the public outrage that followed, activist Traffic Ramaswamy’s contempt plea against the continuing illegal installation of political banners was listed today before a Bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee..“How many more litres of human blood do you want to smear the roads with so that your bureaucrats can become sensitive?”, Justice Seshasayee asked Advocate General Vijay Narayan, who had appeared for the State today..The Court eventually ordered the payment of Rs 5 lakh as interim compensation to Subhashree’s family, further directing the state government to recover the same from the errant police and corporation officials responsible for allowing the erection of the illegal banners..Further, the Court also intimated that it would be monitoring the case investigation. The state was directed to submit periodical reports regarding the same to the Court..Disciplinary action was also ordered to be taken against the errant officials by the government. Additionally, the political parties were also directed to file affidavits swearing that they would not erect illegal banners and hoardings..The Court commenced its sitting by observing that administrative apathy continues when it comes to acting against illegal banners and hoardings, regardless of the party in power. The Bench proceeded to observe that the violations continue irrespective of the number of orders passed by the Court against the same..“The only thing the Court has not yet done is to shift the Secretariat to the High Court, apart from that everything has been done”, the Bench remarked..The Court observed today that the government appeared to be unconcerned about preventing the erection of illegal banners, remarking that the bureaucracy only appeared to be concerned about how the government counsel would manage in Court..The Bench proceeded to make its displeasure over continuing violations very clear, even going so far as to observe,.“Are we declaring our impotence by allowing you too violate orders infinitely?…What is happening in this country?… What kind of responsibility do your men have? How many lives must be lost?”.It was further observed that the routine pattern followed when an accident occurs due to the erection of illegal banners is to pay a compensation amount and slap criminal charges for negligence. However, in view of Subhashree’s death yesterday, the Court remarked,.“You are apathetic to the whole thing! Zero respect for human lives in this country….…Will the family get the child back?.. Who gets pleased out of this? The child is dead. What answer the country has to the parents? What answer the country has to the teachers who taught the child?”.When the the Advocate General began to argue on the government’s response to the incident in the morning, the Bench cut him off, observing,.“Sorry, we have lost faith in the government.”.The Bench proceeded to note that government action in such matters was only reactionary and prompted by various accidents, rather than precautionary..“Every time [an accident occurs] a statement is made in behalf of the government…You allow a crime to be committed then you run after that.“.While hearing the contempt plea, the Bench also queried whether political leaders would be willing to issue a statement against the use of digital banners and hoardings..“Can your CM make a statement?”, the Bench asked..In particular, the Bench also pointed out that there were several illegal banners and hoardings in and around Beach Road, which is proximate to the Madras High Court. In view of the impunity with which such banners are erected, the Court further queried whether membership in a political party entailed becoming an extra-statutory functionary..” [If] you put a party flag [on a vehicle]….do you become an extra-statutory functionary?“, the Court asked..The Court proceeded to summon concerned police and corporation officials to offer their explanations in the matter..Accordingly, when the Bench re-assembled at 2.30 in the afternoon, the Court quizzed the authorities over the issue, including the action taken in the wake of Subhashree’s death..“What action taken against those who allowed this to happen…Without officials closing their eyes, how can this happen?”.During the course of hearing, the Court also took critical note of the fact that the police had not included details concerning illegally constructed flex boards in certain sketches prepared to document Subhashree’s death. The judges noted that such incongruence in investigation documents is what ultimately leads to the acquittal of persons responsible for the erection of illegal banners..Critical comments were also made over the delay in registering an FIR after Subhashree’s death, which took place around 10 in the morning..The matter has now been posted to be taken up in the last week of September. The government is expected to submit an action taken report by then..In December last year, another Bench headed by Justice Sathyanarayanan had passed a comprehensive order reiterating the Madras High Court’s 2017 ban on the erection of political banners and hoardings. Even earlier, the High Court had taken note of the apparent reluctance of political parties to comply with High Court orders in this regard..Former Chief Justice Indira Banerjee had once suggested that the government could consider introducing a law so that banners may only be erected along with a message intimating that all due permissions have been taken for the same..However, a Bench headed by Justice TS Sivagnanam was more cynical over the government’s ability to clamp down on the erection of illegal banners. Before dismissing a plea filed against obstructive banners in the OMR area in July last year, Justice Sivagnanam even took to advising that the state counsel not make promises on behalf of the government in his zeal to argue..“They will let you down,” the judge had observed orally..The main plea was dismissed at the time with the observation that,.“Since there are several writ petitions in this court we need not entertain yet another…Needless to mention that banners should only be put up with strict compliance with the provisions of law and requisite approvals…”.Bar & Bench is available on WhatsApp. For real-time updates on stories, Click here to subscribe to our WhatsApp.