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Political publicity not at cost of public interest, court told

Source : IANS
Last Updated: Thu, Nov 21, 2013 14:30 hrs

New Delhi, Nov 21 (IANS) The city government Thursday told the Delhi High Court that the desire of the political parties to promote themselves "can not supersede the larger public interest" as far as the need for orderly display of advertisements is concerned.

Submitting an affidavit before a division bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Manmohan, the Delhi government stated that no city can be allowed to "become a jungle of posters" without regard to any aesthetic sense or safety.

Lakshmi Krishanan, deputy secretary in Delhi's urban development department, filed a response on a PIL by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) challenging the move to remove its posters from the houses of people willing to put them up.

AAP and two residents, willing to put up posters outside their homes, had asked the court that police and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi be restrained from removing posters from houses under the garb of the Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Property (DPDP) Act, 2007.

Asking the court to dismiss the plea, the Delhi government said: "No city whether it be the capital of the country or a small town can be allowed to become a jungle of posters/banners/hoarding/advertisements without regard to any aesthetic sense of safety of the drivers of vehicles or convenience of the pedestrian."

"The desire of the political parties to promote themselves can not supersede the larger public interest in the need for orderly display of advertisement materials," the affidavit added.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the party, had said that this move is denial of the right to freedom of speech of the citizen and the restriction should be set aside immediately as campaigning is going on.

However, the Delhi government stated that the "freedom of speech and expression is not absolute but subject to some reasonable restrictions".

"There is no such thing as absolute or unrestricted freedom of speech and expression wholly free from restraint for that would amount to uncontrolled licence which would tend to lead to disorder and anarchy," it was submitted.

"The constitution of India has struck a proper balance between the various competing social interests.

"It permits imposition of reasonable restrictions on the citizen's right to freedom of speech and expression in the interest of, inter alia, public order, security of state, decency or morality and impartial justice, to serve the large collective interest of the nation as a whole," it added.

It also said that the relevant act doesn't distinguish between public and private property.

"Private property has not been exempted from the application of defacement act in any manner whatsoever. From the Section 3 (1) of the act, it is clear that it is applicable equally to public and private and public property."

The party had challenged the act and said the it be declared unconstitutional. However, the Election Commission of India also filing its response said that "putting up of banners/posters at home of volunteers/supporters on private property is prohibited under DPDP Act".

"It is submitted that the law must be enforced in letter and spirit," it added.

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