Chennai: The Madras High Court has held that merely because the encroachers/ occupants have been there for a long period of time, because there is declaration by Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) as Slum Area and because certain sums of money have been spent by TNSCB towards improvement of the said slum area towards provision of basic amenities it cannot be held that the occupiers/ encroachers have acquired any right much less an indestructible right beyond the ambit of the State duty to remove encroachments.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M. Sundar gave the ruling while passing orders on the petitions filed by K.K. Pudur Residence Welfare Association and Nagammal Street Resident Welfare Association, which sought a direction to the authorities to remove the encroachments made on either side of the public road that have reduced/shrunk the width of the 70 feet wide road to barely 15 feet in Koundampalayam village at Coimbatore.
The bench directed the Coimbatore corporation to provide alternate sites to the occupiers/ encroachers and thereafter remove them as intimated by them (corporation), it would alleviate the difficulties of the occupiers and would also ensure that the encroachments in public road are removed.
The bench said the District Collector has relied heavily on the fact that the occupants have come in the 1970s itself, whereas, the residents and a school came in later. The district collector also has laid much emphasis on the fact that the occupants belong to economically weaker sections of the society and that they cannot be dislodged at this distant point of time.
The collector would also go on to say that severe hardship would be caused to the encroachers if they were dislodged now. The plan clearly establishes the encroachments. "We are of the view that the district collector should have approached the issue from the perspective of removal of encroachment in a public road rather than treat it as some kind of adversarial issue", the bench added.
The bench said once it was not in dispute that the said road was a public road vested in the local authority, occupation/encroachments for any length of time cannot confer any kind of indestructible right that cannot be disturbed. There was nothing before the court to show that the land in which the said road was situated was neither alienated in favour of TNSCB nor vested in TNSCB. Therefore, the said road continues to vest in the local authority and was undoubtedly public road.
"We are of the view that it is a sacred and a Sanctus duty of the state in general and the revenue authorities, in particular, to ensure that public roads are not encroached upon/occupied. Having allowed a public road to be encroached that too, to an extent wherein a one KM stretch has been encroached on either side reducing a 70 foot wide road to a mere 15 feet passage of sorts by shrinking the same is clearly a failure and even a dereliction of duty on the part of the State", the bench added....