Chennai: The Madras high court has directed the Chairperson, Tamil Nadu State Wetland Authority (TNSWA) to ensure that all encroachments on the Wetlands are removed without showing any indulgence or sympathy to them by showing the order of the court.
A division bench comprising Justices M.Venugopal and S.Vaidyanathan said, "The initial step is to disconnect the Water Supply and Electricity supply by informing the Chairman, TNEB, Chennai and CMSSSB and any such other authority supplying water and no civil court shall grant any interim order without invoking Order 18 Rule 18 of CPC (which provides for the legal leniency to the court to personally inspect the property or thing in question and prepare a memorandum of such inspection, which can then be taken upon the records of the case matter) and the inspection needs to be videographed and photographed".
The Chairperson of TNSWA must ensure that there is no further encroachment and illegal constructions made on the wetlands, by way of periodical inspections. This court fixes the responsibility on the Chief Secretary and The Chairperson, TNSWA and his/her team for survey and removal of encroachments on the wetlands and any negligence/lethargic attitude noticed shall be viewed seriously. In case of dereliction of duties, the government is entitled to take suitable disciplinary action against the erring officials, who are entrusted with such works and the government should review their works prior to three months of the retirement of each official in the team and ensure that they have discharged their works satisfactorily, failing which, the officials may be placed under suspension and dismissed from service for their misconduct, dereliction of duty, showing no devotion to work, lack of integrity so as to deprive their entire gratuity and terminal benefits, the bench added.
The bench gave the direction while allowing a PIL from I.H.Sekar, challenging the transfer of "Back Water (Kazhuveli) Lands" lying along the sides of Buckingham Canal to the state transport and tourism departments for construction of Transport office and Music and Fine Arts University respectively in Kancheepuram district.
The bench directed the authorities to stop further constructions, if any carried out on these lands and relocate the buildings, if any constructed on the lands to some other permitted area within one year and in that process, they must ensure that the debris were removed from the lands properly without causing any damage to the adjacent lands. The buildings so constructed should not be in a prohibited area, the bench added.
The bench directed the Chief Secretary to convene a meeting with the Chairperson, TNSWA and other authorities once in a month to review the action taken by the Chairperson, and his/her team in respect of survey and identification of wetlands throughout the state of Tamil Nadu. The Chairperson, TNSWA shall conduct periodical and surprise inspections, field survey and create a boundary marks in respect of wetlands as per the provisions of the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules and submit a report to the Chief Secretary every month, who, in turn was directed to forward a copy of the same in affidavit format to the Registrar General of this court once in three months, the bench added.
The bench said the Chairperson, TNSWA shall assign a separate helpline/phone numbers district wise to enable the public to contact them in case of any illegal encroachment etc., on wetlands and in the event of non-picking of phone calls, the officer, who was in charge of the office on that day shall be responsible for not answering the call and necessary explanation shall be called for from the official concerned in case of any complaint from public with evidence, as most of such help lines numbers in various departments were only deadlines, created for name sake. "Since the directions are issued in the case relating to PIL, the non-compliance of any of the directions, shall be brought to the attention of this court by any third party, apart from the petitioner for this court to take (suo motu) contempt against violators and punish them with imprisonment, if there are wilful and deliberate disobedience of the order of this court", the bench added.