He says “no one can rise above law…”
The Madurai Collector U. Sagayam has justified the enquiry initiated by him against M.K. Alagiri Educational Trust by stating that “no one can rise above law… Whosoever he is and however high he may be, he is answerable to the law.”
Filing a counter affidavit to a writ petition preferred by the trust in the Madras High Court Bench here, the Collector said that the rule of law was an embodiment, a driving force and an essential feature of the Constitution and hence the trust was liable to answer the complaints against it.
He also accused the trust of indulging in delaying tactics by filing the present writ petition challenging his authority to conduct the enquiry. He said that it was late in the day to raise such pleas as the trust had already engaged a counsel who had appeared for the enquiry on a couple of occasions.
The Collector pointed out that an individual named Ramalingam of Madurai District Agricultural Welfare Association had filed a public interest litigation petition in the Bench accusing the trust of destroying irrigation channels for the construction of Dhaya Engineering College at Sivarakottai near here.
The PIL was filed on August 5 last year. In the meantime, the Collector too received petitions from the villagers urging him to intervene in the matter. Hence, he issued a show cause notice to the trust on September 6 seeking explanation as to why action should not be initiated against it.
Immediately, the trust filed a writ petition challenging the show cause notice and a Division Bench of the High Court disagreed with certain observations made in it. Then, the Collector undertook to withdraw the notice with liberty to issue a fresh one.
Accordingly, a fresh notice was issued on December 23 and it was followed by a memo of information issued on April 7, informing the next date of hearing, which were under challenge in the present writ petition filed by the trust through its counsel Veera Kathiravan and R. Janakiramulu.
Defending the enquiry initiated by him, the Collector said that he was well within his powers to conduct the enquiry under Section 1 of the Madras Revenue Summons Act 1869 which empowers Collectors to summon any individual within his jurisdiction in connection with an enquiry.
He also said that the subject matter of the PIL petition and the enquiry initiated by him could not be equated as one and the same. Further, the High Court too had not passed any interim orders in the PIL petition restraining him from conducting the enquiry.
Stating that Mr. Ramalingam had unnecessarily filed the PIL without waiting for the district administration to complete the enquiry, the Collector urged the court to dismiss the present writ petition and vacate the interim stay granted by it on April 20 on proceeding with the enquiry.
Though the counter affidavit was filed through Special Government Pleader K. Mahendran on Wednesday, the case was expected to be taken up for hearing by Justice K. Venkataraman only on Thursday.