The Madras High Court Bench here on Monday directed Madurai Municipal Corporation to conduct a laser survey of buildings within a radius of one kilometre from the outer walls of Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple to find out those which had been constructed beyond nine metres of height in violation of a 1997 Government Order.

A Division Bench comprising Justice V. Ramasubramanian and Justice V.M. Velumani passed the interim direction on a batch of public interest litigation (PIL) petitions.

The judges also directed the civic body to ascertain from its records the year in which the buildings had been assessed for fixing of property tax and submit a report within six weeks.

The orders were passed after taking on file an interim report submitted by two court-appointed Advocate Commissioners. In the report, the commissioners said so far they had identified 547 buildings exceeding the height limit. But they could not say for sure if all of them had violated the 1997 G.O. since the age of the buildings was not known.

During the course of the arguments, Mr.Justice Ramasubramanian said no order could be passed on the basis of the heights measured by the Advocate Commissioners since it would only lead to further litigation with some building owners claiming the measurements to be wrong. He said a laser survey would be the best way to pin down the violators.

Nevertheless, the judge asked the Advocate Commissioners – S. Ramesh and V. Sitharanjandas – to carry on their work simultaneously so that it would be helpful for the court to cross-check the data provided by them with the laser survey report to be produced by the Corporation. Advocate S. Muthukumar was the first to file a PIL petition on the issue in 2011.

Much before the 1997 G.O., the Corporation had passed a resolution on January 28, 1980, for regulating the height of the buildings around the ancient temple to preserve the environment. The resolution led to the framing of the Madurai City Municipal Corporation Height and Architectural Regulation Bye-laws in 1993.

The by-laws received the assent of the Governor on June 15, 1994, and they categorically stated that no buildings, abutting the outer walls of the temple, should be constructed beyond nine metres of height.

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