When a batch of pleas moved by the brick kiln operators arguing that the Tahsildar was not empowered to order closure, Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana conceded the contention and set aside the order.
“It is clear that it is the duty of the Tahsildar and other officials, who could be placed on a par with the Taluk Level Task Force, is only to examine the adherence of the norms in terms of the licence and submit a report to the Collector. They can do nothing more than that. The competent authority alone can initiate action against the offenders,” the judge held.
The judge added that the Collector could not delegate such powers on his own and pointed out that it was settled law that when the statute says something to be done in a particular way, it has to be done in that way.
The court then directed the Coimbatore Collector, who is the competent authority under the statute, to pass appropriate orders within four weeks after hearing the brick kiln workers. The judge also held that the impugned closure order would be treated as notices to the petitioners for appearing before the Collector. However, the judge also made it clear that since the first bench was seized of the issue pertaining to identification and securing the elephant corridors in Coimbatore Forest Division, she has confined to deciding the legality of the impugned orders and not dwelt on other submissions about elephant corridor.
Besides raising the issue of Tahsildar not being the competent official, the counsels appearing for the brick kiln owners largely relied on a claim that though the survey numbers of the lands where the kilns have been set up have not been brought within the purview of the elephant corridor. But under the guise of implementing the interim directions of the first bench, the authorities closed down all the brick-kilns in scant regard to the provisions of law, they claimed.