Madras HC gives nod for erection of banners to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping

State govt. need not have filed affidavit of undertaking since only political parties were restrained from erecting flex boards in public places, says court

The Madras High Court on Thursday waved the green signal for the erection of flex boards from Chennai airport to Mahabalipuram by the Ministry of External Affairs (MoEA) and the State government to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping for a summit at Mamallapuram near here on October 11 and 12.

Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and N. Seshasayee made it clear that there was no necessity on the part of the State government to have filed an affidavit of undertaking since the court had in December 2018 restrained only political parties from erecting flex boards in public places.

Though the court imposed ban does not apply to the Centre as well as the State government, they must comply with all legal procedures before erecting the banners and the safety of the general public, the judges ordered.

Earlier, Advocate General Vijay Narayan informed the court that the affidavit of undertaking was filed only to inform the court before the erection of banners to welcome the foreign dignitary.

Commissioner of Municipal Administration K. Baskaran had filed the affidavit on behalf of the Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary, the Rural Development Secretary as well as the Director General of Police, and stated that he had been authorised to do so by the State government.

It stated that the government as well as local bodies had not given any permission to political parties to erect flex boards across the State ever since the court on December 19, 2018 passed an interim order disallowing them on a public interest litigation petition filed by Mr. Ramaswamy.

However, “whenever any head of State visits our country as part of bilateral relations or as a goodwill gesture of reciprocity, it is customary on the part of the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, to welcome the visiting dignitary by way of welcome banners,” the Commissioner said.

Stating that it was also a matter of courtesy on the part of the State government to welcome the foreign dignitary by erecting flex boards, Mr. Baskaran said the MoEA had proposed to put up flex boards at 14 locations in Chennai, nine on ECR and two in Mamallapuram.

Similarly, the State government too, through the Directorate of Information and Public Relations, wanted to erect flex boards from Chennai airport to Mamallapuram — at five locations in the city, four in Mamallapuram and at seven locations on the Old Mahabalipuram Road as well as the East Coast Road.

Asserting that the flex boards would be erected only for five days, between October 9 and 13, the Commissioner said that care would be taken to make sure that they were erected only on permanent structures and that safe as well as secure temporary structures would be raised only in the absence of permanent structures.

“The strictest standards of safety will be maintained,” he added and pointed out that there was no necessity on the part of the Centre or the State government to obtain a licence for erection of such flex boards on government land.

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