Rise of Legal Mechanism on Visual Pollution
Undoubtedly a relaxed environment can foster creative ideas. But when this so-called creativity is applied against the shabby wall of the city, the situation turns into mere nuisance. It could hardly be found any person denying the fact that nowadays Dhaka is getting a new look due to impending City Corporation election.
Some would say it is a common phenomenon as graffiti writing or hanging poster above our heads of different coaching centers, private tutors, herbal treatment clinics, beauty parlors or cinema halls are not new-fangled; if some one visits once for a time to Farmgate area.
This appalling poster phobia is penetrating other areas also. To control this situation, on February 20 of this year the Parliament of Bangladesh passed an Act titled the “Graffiti Writing and Poster Sticking Control Act, 2012” and it came into force on April 01.
Before exploring the various aspects of this Act in this write up, let us make a view over some expressions used for the purpose of this Act. Under this Act, the expression “wall” includes the interior and exterior wall of any residence, office, court, educational institution, business centre, industrial factory, shop or any foundation or boundary demarcation fence and tree, electrical pillar or post, road island, road divider, bridge, culvert, upper portion of the road and roof of the house.
“Graffiti writing” stands for any writing, printing, and dies drawing or painting by any color or lime or chemical substance against the wall or vehicle for publicity or otherwise. The term “poster” means any publicity placard, picture, advertisement and any type of banner and billboard made of paper, cloth, or by electrical ways.
Local government authorities such as union parishad, upzilla parishad, zilla parishad, poura shava, city corporation by administrative orders, shall specify the place for posters sticking and graffiti writing. Nevertheless, with the permission of the competent authorities these could be done beyond the fixed places in complying with the conditions and procedures prescribed by the Rules and then by paying fees. It is needed to mention that till now no rules have been framed and published by the Government, although an eight-member committee convening additional secretary of Ministry of LGRD has been formed for enacting this.
Offence and Punishment:
This Act has recognized unauthorized posters sticking and scrawling graffiti as an offence. If any person or institution violates the aforesaid procedure of posters sticking and graffiti writing, the punishment is estimated of minimum 5 but maximum 10 thousand taka fine and in default simple imprisonment of 15 days. Especially, in case of violation of this Act for any privilege-holder, the punishment is minimum 10 but maximum 50 thousand taka fine and in default simple imprisonment of 30 days. This Act has made applicable the provision of the Mobile Court Act, 2009. Moreover, in case of complaint against any privilege-holder, the summary trial procedure is to be maintained.
The object of this provision is to shorten the lengthy course of trial. Here it is notable that S. 262 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 dealing with the summary trial procedure provides that in this kind of trial maximum punishment that can be awarded is 2 years imprisonment.
This Act makes liable every director, manager, secretary, partner, officer and employee of a company collectively, if there is any evidence that the concerned company has desecrated any provision of this law.
Election Commission and this Act:
According to a special provision of the law, electoral laws will take precedence over this new legislation during the parliamentary polls or elections to any local government bodies. Moreover, in any other elections, the scrawling graffiti and posters sticking as part of election campaign shall be held with the prior approval of the concerned electoral authorities in approved places by paying fixed fees. But there is a ‘provided that’ clause, which spells out that within the termination of 15 days of the concerned election, all posters and scrawling graffiti shall be removed.
Section 5 of the Act says that the government can issue an order by gazette notification specifying a time frame for removal of posters and scrubbing away graffiti. In case of any non-compilation of this provision, the concerned local government authorities shall, as soon as the deadline ends, take measures to do the removal of these and for this business the authority shall get the expenses of it from the concerned persons or institutions.
Powers of the EC:
On April 04, the Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad urged DCC mayoral and councillor hopefuls to immediately remove their posters, billboards and banners from the city streets. It is true inadequacy in the electoral code of conduct is advantaging them by disempowering the EC to take action against them right now. But once the election schedule is announced, the EC will have sweeping authority to stop such campaigns. There will be a ban on scrawling graffiti and pasting posters on the walls of houses and establishments.
If anybody flouts the code of conduct, the election officials can take actions against them or can ask the law enforcement agencies to remove those. Besides, an offender may be sentenced to up to 6 months imprisonment term or fined 50 thousand taka or both. The candidates however will be allowed to hang their posters with ropes for a certain period.
Recently some leaders of the ruling party and several non-partisan hopefuls have already geared up their campaigns for the polls. They have been spending money on printing posters and digital banners and pasting and hanging those on the walls and streets. These cluttered and attitudinal aspects are not legally on the right track, has been acknowledged when the Honorable High Court Division ordered for removing all of these within 10 days. Moreover, by calling it “visual pollution” a rule was issued as to why a direction should not be given to prevent and control this type of campaign using public and private properties.
But it is a matter of great regret that till now no steps have been taken and these posters and wall writing are prevailing with their all nasty pride ignoring the order of the Court!
To conclude, it is obvious that in our country many laws are being enacted now and then with limited application.
Again laws are not always sufficient to closely watch on all matters. Above all what we need is a sense of right and wrong. “Our country, our city” - we need to develop this thought to make it beautiful. If we every one try to keep our wall clean and fine-looking, we should change our outlook of dirtying that of others. This is high time we thought and re-thought to back Dhaka on its inherent beauty as our sublime duty.
The writer is a student of Law, Dhaka University
09 Apr 2012 10:32:39 AM Monday
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