Alarmed and amazed by the "mind-boggling" figure of over 42,000 flag poles across the state, the Kerala High Court today told the LDF government that action under every applicable law must be taken against the perpetrators, irrespective of political affiliations.
"No more illegal flag poles," the high court added, reiterating its interim order of November 1 that no illegal flag poles or masts be put up in the state while the issue was being examined by it.
Justice Devan Ramachandran said that the high court's directions against putting up of illegal flag masts and the consequent punishment, including the maximum penalty, should be given wide publicity so that those who want to act as per law can get one opportunity to remove the poles without the entire might of law being brought to bear on them.
The high court said no action may be taken against those persons who remove the flag poles or masts before the authorities take the necessary steps for the same.
The directions by the court came after it was informed by the state government that according to its survey, there are around 42,337 flag poles in Kerala.
However, the state did not say in its report how many of these poles were illegal.
Terming the figures as "amazing", Justice Ramachandran said, "The situation is alarming. The figures are mind boggling. I am certain the numbers are not accurate and would be double or more than that if an exhaustive evaluation is carried out."
The court also said that according to inputs received by it, it "would not be surprised" if a majority of the over 42,000 flag poles did not have the necessary sanctions or approvals.
"Surely the flag poles could not have been allowed to be installed on road margins, auto stands, traffic junctions, etc," the court said.
Senior government pleader S Kannan, appearing for the state, said the issue was being looked into seriously by the LDF administration and an action taken report would be filed in 10 days and sought time for that.
He said an action taken report could not be filed as the Cabinet has been unable to meet for some time due to the legislative assembly session which ended only on November 12.
The court, thereafter, gave the government time till November 25 to file the report and said that in the meantime, the competent authorities would ensure the interim order of November 1 was enforced.
According to the report filed by the state government, the highest number of flag poles have been put up in Palakkad (5,159) and Kannur (5,064).
During the hearing, the court said that no one dares to remove the illegal flag poles as most of them have some or the other political force behind it.
"What kind of attitude is this? You can put up a flag pole anywhere? No one dares to remove them or speak out against them. If they go to remove the masts, they receive a beating and come back," the court said.
"Lawlessness" is how the high court earlier termed the installation of illegal flag masts across the state by political parties, their affiliates and trade unions.
The court had 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".
It had said the metal itself of the poles could be used for setting up 10 factories.
It reiterated the observation today during the hearing.
The court was hearing a plea by a cooperative society alleging that a particular political party was illegally putting up flags and banners on its land.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)