The Madras High Court has recently come down heavily on encroachments on the roads, especially by temples and hawkers. Temples being built within courts/ prisons/hospitals and other government offices is a common sight.
In 2014, a 30-year-old temple which was built just at the entrance of the Madras High Court to offer prayers for the speedy recovery of the then Chief Minister, M G Ramachandran, was demolished after a prolonged legal battle at the behest of ‘Traffic’ Ramasamy. There have been several such orders for specific removals of encroachments at different places. Presently, the spotlight is on the temple at the NSC Bose Road abutting Armenian Street, just opposite the Madras High Court.
This illegal structure has electricity power connection and houses not merely human beings but also goats and poultry. The entire encroached temple and surroundings are in possession of unruly elements to the knowledge of the municipal and police authorities. Road users have to wade through the encroachers with fear of offending them lest they may tread on them and repercussions would be severe.
While encroachment of roads by temples is a big issue, encroachments on waterbodies have been yet another issue of importance. Especially after the extreme flood and drought situations, there are several NGOs working to restore rivers/lakes/ponds and other waterbodies. The courts are spending substantial time to monitor these due to the failure of various government departments. While laws are very elaborate and substantial in our country, execution is abysmally poor. Just on Thursday (November 21), there was a case against the construction of the Semmanchery Urban Police Station on Thamaraikeni lake in Sholinganallur on the outskirts of Chennai. NGO Arappor Iyakkam has raised this issue in the Madras High Court. The construction commenced well before the planning permission was granted. The land on which the construction is done is admittedly the Thamaraikeni lake, a waterbody, which has been reclassified as ‘Institutional Use Zone’ from that of ‘Meikkal Thangal Road’ (by itself an unknown classification).
Thus, valuable time of the high courts is being wasted only due to the failure of the State and the statutory bodies failing in their duties and turning a blind eye to the blatant violation of the laws. Now, with the advent of the Tamil month of Karthigai, the ‘Ayyappa’ season begins. Every other street corner has ‘Ayyappa’ devotees blaring from loudspeakers through day and night till the Makara Jyothi on Pongal day in mid-January. There is no peace for the citizens, especially the old, the infirm, those preparing for examinations and those who seek a quiet atmosphere.
Citizens are left in the lurch with unsafe encroached lands/roads/waterbodies and loud unhygienic surroundings because our State authorities turn a blind eye to the law breakers. Even as the High Court laments and passes orders in favour of the citizens, execution seems to be a challenge.
—The writer is Senior Advocate, Madras High Court