Extends interim stay on Collector's enquiry until Friday

The Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday clubbed a writ petition filed by M. K. Alagiri Educational Trust challenging an enquiry initiated against it by Madurai Collector along with a public interest litigation petition already pending before a Division Bench of the High Court.

Justice K. Venkataraman directed the High Court Registry to post the writ petition along with the PIL petition slated to come up for hearing on Friday and extended the interim stay granted by him on April 20 restraining the Collector from proceeding with the enquiry.

The judge refused to accept the plea to vacate the interim stay. “The Collector has made a big statement saying that no one is above law. He must know that it applies equally to him too. Let him obey the interim orders passed by this court,” the judge said.

He also disagreed with the Collector's argument that the enquiry initiated against him had nothing to do with the subject matter of the PIL petition.

“In my considered view, the issue involved in the two proceedings are one and the same,” the judge observed.

In the present writ petition, the educational trust had challenged a show cause notice issued by the Collector on December 23 calling upon it to explain allegations of having destroyed certain irrigation channels while constructing Dhaya College of Engineering at Sivarakottai near here.

Questioning the authority of the Collector to conduct an enquiry into the matter, the petitioner's counsel Veera Kathiravan and R. Janakiramulu claimed that he ought not to have embarked on such an enquiry especially when a public interest litigation relating to the same issue was pending in the court.

The PIL petition was filed on August 5 last year by Ramalingam of Madurai District Agricultural Welfare Association accusing the educational trust of having destroyed the irrigation channels thereby affecting agricultural operations in and around the area.

The Collector was yet to file a counter affidavit in the PIL petition.

However, he filed his reply to the writ petition filed last week and stated that Mr. Ramalingam had unnecessarily filed the PIL without waiting for the district administration to complete its enquiry.

The Collector also said that the Trust must subject itself to the enquiry as “no one can rise himself above law. The rule of law is an embodiment and a driving force and an essential feature of the Constitution. No one is above law, whosoever he is and however high he may be, he is answerable to the law.”

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