Law officers spend anxious moments as case was posted wrongly before single judge

The Madras High Court Bench here on Friday refused to extend the stay granted by it on the enquiry initiated by Madurai Collector U. Sagayam against M.K. Alagiri Educational Trust, of which Union Minister M.K. Alagiri was one of the trustees, on charges of having destroyed irrigation channels for constructing Dhaya Engineering College at Sivarakottai near here.

Justice K. Venkataraman refused to extend the stay on the ground that on Thursday itself he had referred the writ petition filed by the trust to be posted along with a Public Interest Litigation petition pending before a Division Bench and hence it would be practically impossible for him to pass further orders. “I have washed my hands of. You have to mention it before a Division Bench,” he told the petitioner's counsel.

When the writ petition challenging a show cause notice issued by the Collector came up before the judge on Thursday, he extended the stay, originally granted by him on April 20, until Friday when the PIL petition, filed by the leader of a farmers' association against the trust, was expected to be listed for hearing before a Division Bench of Justice R. Banumathi and Justice B. Rajendran.

However, the Division Bench was not constituted on Friday as Ms. Justice Banumathi had flown to the Principal Seat in Chennai on official work. The case was not listed even before another Division Bench comprising Justices S. Rajeswaran and M. Vijayaraghavan as it took up only fresh PIL petitions that came up for admission for the first time and not those that were pending already.

Curiously, the case was listed before Mr. Justice Venkataraman on Friday too giving some anxious moments to the law officers who were perplexed as to how could a case that was ordered to be posted before a Division Bench was listed before the same judge on the next day too. But relieving them of the anxiety, the judge himself clarified that he would not take up the case.

In the meantime, the counsel for the trust Veera Kathiravan and R. Janakiramulu requested the Division Bench presided over by Mr. Justice Rajeswaran to take up the PIL as well as the writ petition on Friday. When the judges expressed their inability to hear the case on the same day, the counsel obtained an order to post both the cases on the first summer vacation court on May 3.