Court must not allow itself to be used for select demolition where poor become victims

The Madras High Court’s order to clear encroachments on marshlands and reserved grazing land at Bethel Nagar in Injambakkam has caused a lot of anguish and financial distress for the area’s 1,000-odd residents.
Court must not allow itself to be used for select demolition where poor become victims

Chennai: Bethel Nagar is not the only residential colony in Chennai to be built on marshlands or grazing land. Even government offices and parks have been built on water bodies. While those who have money and influence in the government manage to convert and reclassify the lands and escape legal hurdles, the poor are trapped and left with little option. Don’t the government or courts also have the responsibility to enforce a proper relocation policy? Why is the TN government not implementing a plan for reclassifying lands and tackling the issue of encroachments on the metro’s wetlands for good?

— Meenakshi Sundar, Injambakkam

Conversion or land classification is an exclusive power available to the government which it has been doing ever since the days of the British. Today, Manu court complexes including High Court Madurai Bench are standing on lands which were originally classified as waterbodies. My judgment, along with Justice PK Misra, given in this regard in Sivakasi was reversed by the Supreme Court. The result was the forced demolition of houses that even led to the death of one auto driver.

One can appreciate the anxiety of the court to preserve the water bodies. But they should know that the State government has its ear closer to the ground.

Besides, the court should not allow itself to be used for select demolition where poor people become victims. The best thing for the government to do is to enact new legislation for land classification rather than use the antiquated Revenue Board Standing orders for the same.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed here are of Justice K Chandru, who is providing guidance and direction based on his rich experience and knowledge of the law. This is not a substitute for legal recourse which must be taken as a follow-up if so recommended in these columns

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