Appreciating the step being taken by the government, Justice Devan Ramachandran said what was required was to implement the Land Conservancy Act, which can be done by the District Collectors, and there was actually no need for the Chief Minister to look into the matter and take a policy decision.
"Illegality cannot be perpetuated even by a political party. The government has to act as per the law and for that I do not think a policy decision is required. I am unable to fathom why this stoic silence by the District Collectors (DCs)? This would amount to abdication of their duty as provided under the law and can invite stringent orders from the court," Justice Ramachandran said.
The court said the stage has been set for the DCs to take action under the Land Conservancy Act which would include imposition of heavy penalties and initiation of prosecution where required.
It said the court can wait for a few weeks for that and directed the DCs to file affidavits on the steps taken by them under the Land Conservancy Act against the illegal flag masts in their respective areas.
The court directed the State to also inform it by the next date about any policy decision taken by it in the matter and listed it for hearing on December 20. The government, during the hearing, sought three months' time to take a policy decision to deal with the issue.
However, the court said the timeframe was unfair and disproportionately excessive as the State on several dates of hearing in the past has been saying it has resolved to deal with the matter.
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. During the hearing, the court said that despite its orders of November 1, 15 and 25 barring putting up of illegal flag masts, such poles were continuing to be erected.
"Democracy does not mean you can do something illegally," it said.
On November 15, the court gave 10 days' time for people to remove the illegal flag poles. On November 25, it directed the government to invoke provisions of Land Conservancy Act against all flag masts numbering 42,337 in the State.
The court had said that if any new flag masts are erected illegally and not removed by the competent authorities, the latter would have to face the consequences mandated under the law.
On November 15, the court was alarmed and amazed by the mind-boggling figure of 42,337 flag poles and 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.
On November 1, the court passed an interim order directing that no illegal flag poles or masts be put up while the issue was being examined by it.
"Lawlessness" is how the court had earlier termed the installation of illegal flag masts by political parties, their affiliates and trade unions.
With PTI inputs.