Ensure no untoward incidents related to hoarding collapse happen: SC to Railways and Mumbai civic body

NewsDrum Desk
New Update

New Delhi, Jun 7 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Friday asked the railways and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to ensure that no untoward incidents of hoarding collapse happen in the city.

A vacation bench of Justices Sanjay Kumar and PB Varale issued the direction while hearing the civic body's plea on the applicability of some of the provisions of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act of 1888. It took note of the hoarding collapse incident in Ghatkopar in suburban Mumbai in which 16 people lost their lives last month.

"In the meanwhile, all parties concerned, including the railways, shall ensure necessary measures to see that no untoward incident happens in connection with any hoardings, be it on railways land or on municipal land," the bench directed and posted the matter for further hearing on June 14.

The 120 x 120 square feet illegal hoarding at a petrol pump came crashing down in Ghatkopar during a dust storm and unseasonal rain that lashed Mumbai on May 13, killing 16 people and injuring more than 75.

Justice Kumar allowed Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee, appearing for the railways, to file his response on an MCGM plea pending since 2018 in the apex court.

"Whoever is in-charge of whichever land, please ensure that nothing untoward happens because monsoon season has arrived," Justice Kumar told Banerjee.

During the hearing, Justice Varale referred to the Ghatkopar incident and said as per media reports, the accused was not initially arrested but detained later, and it was found that he had antecedents of erecting illegal hoardings.

The bench also asked whether the railways had any policy to regulate putting up of hoardings as suggested by the high court.

Banerjee said the Ghatkopar incident was not before the court and the illegal hoarding was not on railways land.

He said a policy is in existence for regulating hoardings.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the civic body, said it was discharging its functions under the 1888 Act and also under the Disaster Management Act, which has an overriding effect on other laws.

"Hoardings which are erected in the city need to be of permissible size under the regulations and subject to structural stability certificate provided by the authorities," he said.

Rohatgi added that several illegal hoardings erected on railway land were identified by the civic body and dozens of them were removed.

He said some such hoardings were not removed by the railways because the matter was pending before the apex court and the civic body has no jurisdiction to regulate them.

Banerjee submitted that as per the railways' policy, the size of hoardings is not of significance but there has to be a structural stability certificate.

Questioning the logic behind the provision in the policy, the bench asked, "can a hoarding of any size be put up?" The ASG said the railways get the structural stability of hoardings checked by experts from reputed institutions like IITs and other engineering colleges.

The MCGM has challenged a December 21, 2017 order of the Bombay High Court which held that section 328 and 328 A of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, which prohibit any person from erecting, fixing or retaining any sky-sign without the written permission of the civic body commissioner, would not be applicable to hoardings erected by the railways on the railway land.

The high court passed the order on a plea of the railways and other parties for restraining the MCGM from applying sections 328 and 328A of the 1888 Act or any other provisions with regard to hoardings on railway land.

The railways have contended that activities, including commercial activities, on railway properties are not under the jurisdiction of the civic body.

The high court had ruled that the railways were not liable to pay any tax to the civic body for the hoardings erected on its land, unless there is a notification to that effect.

It had directed the railways to formulate a policy for regulation of hoardings on railway land keeping in mind the safety of citizens. PTI MNL MNL SK SK