Judge strikes a comparison between it and an arch erected for Assembly’s diamond jubilee

The spirit shown by the State Government recently in defending its decision to construct a memorial arch in Chennai to commemorate the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Legislative Assembly should be shown in the case of safeguarding an arch constructed in the memory of former Chief Minister K. Kamaraj at Cheranmahadevi in Tirunelveli district too, the Madras High Court Bench in Madurai has said.

Disposing of a writ petition, Justice K. K. Sasidharan said that Mr. Kamaraj “was considered a vibrant Chief Minister and a man who always stood for the cause of the poor and downtrodden.” The judge pointed out that the arch was originally constructed at a cost of Rs.225. The money was spent from local body funds and it was formally unveiled on October 10, 1977 by a former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. On July 8, 2003, the Panchayat passed another resolution to demolish the 25-year-old arch and construct a new one in the same location.

A private paper mill came forward to donate Rs.71.51 lakh for reconstruction and the new arch was unveiled on July 11, 2010 by the then Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. However, on February 15, 2012, the Executive Officer of the Panchayat directed the donor to remove the arch within 15 days and hence the present petition.

Though the direction was issued to the paper mill, S. Papanasam, a former president of the Panchayat, had filed the writ petition and claimed to have the locus standi to maintain the writ petition as he was in the helm of affairs when the arch was reconstructed.

On the other hand, the Panchayat’s Executive Officer contended that the arch was reconstructed in violation of a Government Order issued on December 28, 1998. As per the G.O., no arch, statue or pillar should be constructed without the government’s prior permission as they turned out to be one of the reasons for many caste clashes in southern districts.

Recording the submissions, the judge disposed of the case with liberty to the petitioner as well as the donor to make an application to the government seeking regularisation of the arch in accordance with the 1998 G.O. He directed the Panchayat to maintain status quo until the government took a decision on the issue in accordance with law and observations made by the court.

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