Bench seeks official action-taken report before July 27

The Madras High Court Bench here on Friday expanded the scope of a public interest litigation petition, taken up suo motu on the basis of a civic photo feature published in the Madurai edition of The Hindu on June 25 and sought a report from the Assistant Director of Panchayats by July 27 on the steps taken by him to keep all local bodies in the district clean and hygienic.

A Division Bench of Justices R. Banumathi and B. Rajendran included the Collector and the Superintending Engineer of Public Works Department also as parties to the case.

The photo feature had covered a wide range of civic issues, including choking of the Vaigai river with plastic waste, pathetic condition of a canal that connects Melamadai and Sadasiva Nagar and overflowing trash near Pandikovil here.

It also captured the burning of waste on open grounds in the Samayanallur panchayat. The panchayat president, who was present in the court, told the judges that some unknown individuals were in the habit of dumping garbage and burning it. Some more photographs were produced before the court to show that garbage being brought in trucks and dumped in the open grounds.

While perusing the photos, Mr. Justice Rajendran found that the truck in the picture was a government-owned vehicle. Hence, he asked the government counsel to take necessary action.

The Block Development Officer of Samayanallur and the Assistant Director of Panchayats also appeared before the court and assured to take necessary steps to prevent such occurrences.

“You see, many people are dying due to dengue in the southern districts. It all happens only because of unhygienic conditions. So, you have to clear this at the earliest. You should also file a report as to the steps taken for preventing such occurrences in the future. We’ll go through the report and pass final orders on July 27,” Ms. Justice Banumathi told the officials.

Earlier, G.R. Swaminathan, counsel for the Madurai Municipal Corporation, said that two of the four pictures in the photo feature were taken within the territorial limits of the Corporation. Immediately after the publication, the local body cleaned up the area near Pandikovil and also cleared the garbage dumped in the canal running between Melamadai and Sadasiva Nagar.

He also said that the places would be cleaned on a daily basis. In so far as dumping of plastic waste in the Vaigai was concerned, he said that it was up to the Public Works Department to remove it. “When residents dump garbage in the Vaigai, we cannot help. Only the PWD has to act. But, we take full responsibility with regard to the places near Pandikovil as well as the Melamadai canal.”