New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked all state governments and union territory administrations not to grant any permission for putting up statues or other structures on public roads, causing hardships to travelling public.
A bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya said their order to Kerala government not to permit the installation of statues on public roads and other public utilities, would be applicable to all the states and union territories.
"Henceforth the state government shall ensure not to grant any permission for the installation of any statue or construction of any structure on the public road, pavements, side-ways or on any other public utilities," the court said in its order while directing status quo on the installation of a statue of a politician on the Kanyakumari national highway.
However, the court made it clear that its order would not come in the way of the installation of "high-mast and street-lights, or any other electrical installation".
The court said that the state chief secretaries/UT administrators "shall ensure the compliance of (its) order", which came in the course of the hearing of petition on the unauthorised religious structure mushrooming in public places.
As counsel for the Kerala government told the court that the statue was being put up to highlight the achievement of the said leader, Justice Lodha said: "Instead of glorifying the leader, why don't you spend the funds for the upliftment of the poor."
Brushing aside the submission of the Kerala counsel that these were the state government's funds, the court admonishingly retorted: "What do you mean? These public funds are meant for the people of India. Is it that you are getting foreign funds? Time has come when public interest must be paramount."
As counsel told the court that Kerala was no exception and even Delhi had statues, the court said: "You can't install statues at public places. It is not a private property. Each and every citizen has a right that can't be taken away by you."
"Such practices must stop. If some states have bad practices it does not mean others too should follow," the court said in response to plea that Delhi too had statues at public places.
Justice Lodha said that governments must ensure that "every action of the state must be guided by public interest", while Justice Mukhopadhaya observed: "You can highlight the achievements but not by obstructing the public."
Justice Mukhopadhaya asked "How can you allow permission (to install statue) in a traffic island. Have you allowed on the basis of official order?"
As counsel said that Kanyakumari National Highway was in fact not a national highway but a state highway, the court pointed out that state's own affidavit describes it as a national highway.
While adjourning the hearing by four weeks, the court asked the amicus curiae to compile all the affidavits on the existence of unauthorised religious structures on public places.