The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the Delhi Outdoor Advertisers’ Association have decided to challenge the Delhi high court’s 27 March order that sought the removal of all hoardings visible from roads across the city.
The court in its order said that such messages were “a disturbance to safe traffic movement” and it asked the parties concerned to remove their hoardings in one month from the date of the order.
MCD and the advertisers’ association are now planning to file a petition before that deadline, requesting the same bench to review the judgment. MCD says it will lose as much as Rs150 crore in revenue if these hoardings are removed. The municipal body generates a portion of its annual income from licence fees from outdoor advertisers. It also said the loss would impact its ability to provide services such as bus shelters, public toilets and subways that are currently sustained by revenue generated by such fee.
The advertisers’ association refused to give an estimate of the loss it is likely to incur, but it said that the judgement could affect as many as 5,000 hoardings and signages across the Capital.
According to some estimates, however, agencies charge their clients around Rs3-5 lakh per month depending on the location of the hoarding. The cost of installing uni-pole hoardings (the ones that stand on a single pole) is around Rs4 lakh. Licence charges to MCD ranges from Rs50,000 to Rs1.76 lakh depending to the hoardings size. Advertisers pay the Delhi Transport Corporation more than Rs20,000 for commercial messages on bus stops.
Hoardings have attracted much attention—of the unwanted variety—in Delhi of late, with three separate judgements directing civic authorities to remove existing hoardings and refusing licences for new ones.
“On two occasions, the court has passed a judgement on hoardings while adjudicating some other issues. Even in the 27 March order, the court delivered a judgement on hoardings in one paragraph while talking about traffic violations and regulating traffic near bus stands,” said an MCD official who didn’t want to be identified.
The issue had first cropped up when the Supreme Court ordered MCD, the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation as well as the Indian Railways to remove all hoardings that were deemed hazardous to traffic. In 2004, the Punjab and Haryana high court also passed a similar judgement banning hoardings.
In its 27 March judgment, the Delhi high court noted that there is no ambiguity in the Supreme Court order when it said all hoardings that are on roadsides are hazardous and a disturbance to traffic flow. “Obviously, the hazardous hoarding, which is a disturbance to safe traffic movement, has to be a hoarding visible to the traffic on the road,” the court noted.
The trade body claims there is some confusion about whether the order would cover all hoardings and signboards in the city or only those that directly impede the traffic.
Outdoor advertising had a 6% share in the total advertising spend, estimated to be Rs16,300 crore in 2006. The outdoor advertisers’ association said the judgement, if implemented, will be a big setback for the fledgling industry.