"Lawlessness" is how the Kerala High Court on Monday termed the installation of illegal flag masts across the state by political parties, their affiliates and trade unions, directing the Left government to ensure no flagpoles are put up illegally on public land till November 15.
The court also directed the state government to carry out "an audit and survey of the illegal flag masts across the length and breadth of the state".
"I bet the numbers would be mind boggling. The metal itself could be used for setting up 10 factories," Justice Devan Ramachandran said.
The judge said that political parties in the state were "competing with each other" in putting up flag masts, irrespective of whom among them is in power, despite observations of the High Court against this practice.
"Today across Ernakulam a political party's flags are up. They are in power. Who are they challenging? Are they challenging the High Court?" the court asked.
The judge said that he received an anonymous letter from a truck driver who had to shell out Rs 6,000 to a party for hitting their flagpole on the roadside and asked "What is this lawlessness going on here?"
"Even as we speak, political and similar flag masts are being installed across the length and breadth of the state without any respite," the court said and added that such installations can only be permitted with the approval of the local bodies.
The court said that the government was quick to demolish structures of ordinary citizens or poor people on 'poramboke' (government) land, but was not taking any action where the illegal flag masts of political parties or their affiliates were concerned.
It said the "culture" of political parties putting up flag masts in areas of their influence has "permeated into society".
The court said that after a flagpole is put up, its "owners" think they are in occupation and possession of the land and proceed to put up boards and other installations next to it or along with it and "this is demonstrably clear in about every nook and corner of the state".
"This has to be stopped," it added.
The state government, represented by senior government pleader S Kannan, sought two weeks more time to file a detailed affidavit in response to the court's queries of October 12 regarding how the illegal flag masts were being permitted.
While observing that the time sought was excessive, the court granted the same and listed the matter for hearing on November 15.
"Until then, I am certain no more flag masts will be put up and the steps for this shall be ensured by the state government," Justice Ramachandran said.
The directions came during the hearing of a plea by a cooperative society alleging that a particular political party was illegally putting up flags and banners on its land.