Secretaries and Field Staff of Local Government Institution personally liable for illegal installation of political party’s flag mast: Kerala High Court

The issue placed before consideration of the bench of Kerala High Court consisting of Justice Devan Ramachandran was legality of unauthorized installation of flag masts of various political parties across the state in the matters between The Manam Sugar Mills Co-operative Ltd. v. Deputy Superintendent of Police W.P.(C)Nos. 22750 of 2018, 25784 of 2018 and 42574 of 2018 decided on 19.1.2022.

The facts of this case are that this petition is by a property owner who approached the Court through counsel Adv.RT Pradeep, seeking police protection to remove flagpoles allegedly erected on his property by political parties.

The Amicus Curiae (Sri. Hareesh Vasudevan) informed the court that only because this Court has not issued orders in the last few months, that unauthorized Boards/Banners/Flags are no longer allowed if they come to occupy the public spaces of the state.Although the Road Safety Commissioner has issued order dated 06/02/2020 prohibiting the same in any public space, including pedestrian paths, guardrails, medians, traffic islands, etc. However, various individuals and organizations seem to have the impression that they can still violate this and will not take any action against them.One reason why this threat is not fully contained is because ad agencies have been tasked with installing them, and these agencies do so without even realizing the relevant laws, especially since some of their employees are not from Kerala.

The Kerala High Court held that the licenses of printing houses/advertising agencies that are found to have erected such flagpoles on behalf of political parties and others will be revoked. The Court decided that the larger question of such facilities elsewhere should also come to the attention of the authorities and gathered together several petitions on the same subject. As the government has allowed political parties to continue the practice of erecting flagpoles wherever they wish, without consequences, the government has ordered strict action against those who fail to remove these facilities in accordance with the law.

The following guidelines have been issued by the Court:

  1. The secretaries of local self-government agencies should take action to promptly remove and return to the perpetrators all unauthorized boards/placards/flags that are in violation of this Court’s instructions and in violation of the Road Safety Commissioner’s order. without being disposed of in public waste disposal systems within thirty days from today. Necessary instructions to the various secretaries of local self-government institutions should be given by the Panchayats Director and the City Affairs Director via circulars/orders within a five-day period.
  2. Any unauthorized board/ticket/flag etc. remaining after the said period. It will be the personal responsibility of the secretaries of local self-government institutions and the field  staff or personnel who will take the necessary actions as per the
  3. No advertising agency/entity shall have the right to erect any unauthorized billboards/banners/flags or similar in violation of the orders of this Court or the order of the Road Safety Commissioner; and for this purpose, they will make such installations only after receiving the necessary sanction from their secretaries of local self-government institutions, and not in any other way. Address and telephone numbers will be placed at the bottom of each billboard/banner/flag to be printed by advertising agencies/printing houses, and if any violation is detected by the competent authorities, necessary action will be taken.
  4. Any billboard/banner/flag printed without the details of the above-mentioned printing house/advertising agency will be considered illegal by invoking strict actions including the Indian Penal Code and the Land Protection Act.
  5. Any violation of the instructions in (2), (3) and (4) above will also entail the revocation of the licenses of the printing/advertising agencies subject to the completion of an appropriate investigation.

Judgement reviewed by Bhaswati Goldar

The Manam Sugar Mills Co-operative Ltd. v. Deputy Superintendent of Police Kerala High Court

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