Girl’s death sparks debate on illegal hoardings in Tamil Nadu

Published : September 13, 2019 15:18 IST

Flags on the road to the Secretariat in Chennai that were ordered to be removed by the Madras High Court on September 13. This came a day after the death of a girl riding a two-wheeler after a hoarding on a road in Pallikaranai, a Chennai suburb, fell on her and she came under the wheels of a truck.

The death of a girl yesterday on a Chennai road because of illegal banners put up by an All India Anna Dravida Munentra Kazhagam functionary has evoked a flurry of responses from the Madras High Court, the people and opposition parties.

The 23-year-old IT employee, Subhasree, who was riding a two-wheeler in suburban Pallikaranai, was crushed to death by a truck after an illegally erected banner fell on her. She lost her balance and fell from the vehicle and the truck, which was coming behind her two-wheeler, ran over her.

Two years ago, an IT professional in Coimbatore, K. Ragupathi, lost his life when the two-wheeler he was riding hit a casuarina pole jutting on to the road. A truck that was following his vehicle ran over him. There were massive protests in Coimbatore at that time and the Madras High Court passed orders on the matter subsequently. But the government and political parties did not pay any heed as the latest incident showed.

A day after the latest incident, as protests gained prominence in the media, a case of death by negligence was filed against S. Jayagopal , the AIADMK’s former Municipal Councillor who had put up the illegal hoarding. Based on a complaint by the Chennai Corporation, Jayagopal has been booked under Sections 279 (rash driving), 336 (endangering life or personal safety of others), and 304 A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code.

Earlier, the police arrested the truck driver and sealed the premises of the flex board maker.

On Friday, a two-judge Bench of the High Court came down heavily against officials who turned a blind eye to illegal hoardings: “Make it a movement in the State that we’ll not do anything that harms the citizens of this country…. Only politicians erect flex boards. They alone have to take responsibility for this…. The Chief Minister should make a statement that his party cadre should not erect flex boards…. You can’t just be satisfied with paying compensation for death. We are tired of this.”

The judges pointedly asked the Attorney General if the Chief Minister would issue a statement against flex boards. “That also can be done,” the A-G replied.

Justice M. Sathyanarayanan and Justice N. Seshasayee were hearing a contempt of court petition filed by the activist Traffic K.R. Ramaswamy against the Chief Secretary for allegedly disobeying orders banning political parties from installing flex boards.

Acting quickly given the public sentiment against hoardings along road margins, DMK president M.K. Stalin issued a statement condemning the incident and cautioned cadre that he would not participate in events if unauthorised cutouts and banners were erected along road margins.

Not to be left behind, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palanisami and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam have asked party cadre not to erect cutouts and banners for party functions.