The Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday restrained a high-level committee, constituted by the State government on December 30 to consider the possibility of creating a sculpture park by carving the Yanaimalai near here, from causing any damage to the hillock.

Passing interim orders on a public interest litigation petition challenging the constitution of the committee headed by Commissioner of Archaeology Department, Justices Prabha Sridevan and B. Rajendran said that it should not even take rock samples from the hillock without obtaining permission from the court.

The judges also ordered notices to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Archaeological Survey of India, State government represented by the Tourism Secretary, Madurai Collector, Yanaimalai Othakadai panchayat president and a few other officials returnable in four weeks.

Ms. Justice Sridevan said that the court prima facie did not find any reason for altering the Yanaimalai, which derived the name from its resemblance to an elephant in squatting posture. “We think that the particular rock formation itself is unique. It is a record of history of evolution,” she said.

A. Mahaboob Batcha, managing trustee of the Society for Community Organisation (SOCO) Trust, a voluntary organisation here, filed the PIL petition. He sought a direction to the Union government to acquire the hillock and ensure its proper protection without disturbing its original character.

According to him, the hillock was a solid block of gneiss approximately 3 km long and 90 metres tall. Stating that it resembled the Ayers Rock of Australia, he claimed that the hillock had been declared as a protected monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

It has sites of archaeological importance such as a Jain cavern with Bas Relief of Mahavira, Parsuvanath and others. Ancient Tamil Brahmi scripts on the hillock describe it as ‘Ivakunram,’ meaning elephant hill. The Narasinga Perumal temple on the hill also contains ancient Tamil Vattalethu inscriptions.

The petitioner alleged that the plan to crack the hillock would only benefit the “granite lobby.” Already several hills in the district had been razed to exploit granite.

His counsel T. Lajapathi Roy said those living near Yanaimalai considered the entire hillock to be divine and hence it should not be disturbed.

The Special Government Pleader contended that the government had not taken any final decision on creation of the sculpture park. The committee was formed only to consider the feasibility of the project.

The petitioners’ apprehensions were based on surmises and conjectures.