CHENNAI: The Madras High Court stated that the officials who failed to prevent the encroachment and allowed the constructions made by Shanmuga Arts, Science, Technology and Research Academy (SASTRA University) on 31 acres of government land in Thanjavur district will be held responsible along with the encroacher.
The court directed the State government to file a response explaining whether any interim orders were issued that restrained officials from acting against the institution.
“What were officials doing for the past 30 years? Why did they grant permission to construct on government land that was earmarked for establishing an open-air prison? If we want to punish encroachers, we cannot ignore officials who are responsible to prevent the illegal act,” observed Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari, while heading the first bench, along with Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy.
For this, the Additional Advocate General J Ravindranath responded that litigations were pending before the courts in connection with the disputed land.
The court heard a petition filed by SASTRA challenging the February 23 order of the State government refusing to allot 31.37 acres of government land which is under the possession of the university for about 35 years.
On recording the submissions, the CJ also wanted the AAG to submit copies of interim orders to find out justification for the officials’ inaction.
“If it fails to justify the act of respondents, they are required to answer their inaction with regard to the alleged encroachment for the past 35 years and the construction of buildings therein. It can happen only when there is inaction on the part of the officers, but if there are interim orders by any court of law, then they cannot be blamed for it rather they were under obligation to comply,” the bench ruled.
SASTRA’s counsel submitted that they had sent three proposals to the government for providing equally good properties in exchange and, also to pay if there was any differential value.
However, the AAG argued that after illegally occupying 31 acres of government land and making constructions for more than 30 years, it is audacious to say that they would provide an alternate land.
The matter has been adjourned to April 25.