The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) authorities to remove all outdoor advertisement boards that have been installed on the footpaths, allegedly with the permission of the Pakistan Coast Guards, across the city.
A three-member bench, headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim, also directed all responsible officers of the federal, provincial and local land control authorities to appear before the court with complete reports regarding the issuance of licences for outdoor hoardings by the next date of hearing.
The bench, which issued these directives, was hearing the Karachi Cantonment Board’s petition against the Sindh High Court’s order that nullified the excessive advertisement tax imposed by the KCB on private outdoor advertisement agencies in Karachi.
The deputy attorney general said he had written a letter to all federal agencies to file their comments as to which of them had permitted the installation of outdoor advertisement hoardings in the areas within their jurisdictions. The bench members observed that no one had put in an appearance except representatives of the Pakistan Coast Guards, the Karachi Port Trust and the Pakistan Railways.
The senior director (admin) of KMC, Akhtar Shah, said there were 17 agencies which permit the installation of billboards or hoardings in the city. The judges observed that it appeared notices had not been issued to all the agencies. “The office is directed to issue notices to all the agencies for the next date of hearing. If they are unrepresented, orders will be passed.”
The Pakistan Coast Guards’ law officer, Major Shahzad Saleem Khan, said they had not permitted anyone to install billboards or hoardings on any site. The officer said he had confirmed this position with the relevant quarters.
At this, the judges ordered: “The KMC shall uproot the billboards, which are claimed to have been installed with the permission of the Pakistan Coast Guards. This order shall be complied by the KMC within one week from today.”
DSP Mazhar Hussain Alvi said the police department had not given permission to any person to install such boards and hoardings. “We have been informed that billboards are permitted to be installed by the estate management AIGP in police stations and police chowkis (kiosks). The properties which are occupied by the police are not owned by them. It is the property of the state and the Board of Revenue is the custodian,” the judges told the officer. “No officer in the police has the competence to order the installation of billboards or hoardings, either in the police station or police chowki (kiosk),” they added.
The bench ordered the concerned officer from the police department to appear on the next date of hearing to apprise the court on the law under which such permission could be granted. “As far as the other agencies are concerned, we are clear in our mind that the permission for installing these heavy billboards cannot be ordered as such an act is a violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens,” the judges observed.
“Mostly, these billboards and hoardings are installed by encroaching footpaths and roads and are a danger to the pedestrians and vehicles plying on roads. Some of the billboards even obstruct the view of the drivers,” they added. Directing the office to fix the matter in the next session, the SC bench ordered the KMC’s senior director to submit a list pinpointing the billboards installed at the behest of the different agencies.