Kochi: With the 10 days given by it for voluntary removal of illegal flag masts erected across the state coming to an end, the Kerala High Court on Thursday directed the government to invoke provisions of Land Conservancy Act against all flag poles - which number 42,337 - in Kerala.
The high court on November 15 had given 10 days time to those who have put up flag poles in the state to remove the same on their own before any action is initiated by the government or its authorities.
On Thursday, the state government told Justice Devan Ramachandran that it had given wide publicity to the court's November 15 order and the authorities have ensured that no new flag masts were erected since then.
The court said that if the stand of the government - represented by senior government pleader S Kannan - was accurate, then all the flag masts in the state will prima facie have to be made subject to the Land Conservancy Act and consequent prosecution and imposition of penalties provided under it have to be invoked and pursued.
It said that since the time frame given by it is over, it has to be assumed and presumed that people are aware about the law and the consequences for the violation of the same.
The court also said that if any new flag masts are erected illegally and not removed by the competent authorities, the latter will have to face the consequences mandated under the law.
"It is high time we understand we are governed by the rule of law. The court gave everyone one opportunity to remove the flag masts on their own.
"If no one intends to remove them, they will have to be removed as per the Land Conservancy Act and penalties, as provided under it, should be imposed," Justice Ramachandran said.
Let these people show they erected it with proper permissions, the court added.
On November 15, the court was alarmed and amazed by the "mind-boggling" figure of 42,337 flag poles existing across the state and had told the Left government to take action under every applicable law against the perpetrators, irrespective of political affiliations.
"No more illegal flag poles," the high court had added.
It had on November 1 passed an interim order directing that no illegal flag poles or masts be put up in the state while the issue was being examined by it.
"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 was hearing a plea by a cooperative society alleging that a particular political party was illegally putting up flags and banners on its land.