The Madras High Court Bench here on Wednesday dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed by the Madurai Mavatta Vivasayigal Nala Sangam against a proposed acquisition of 1,488.71 acres of land in Sivarakottai, Karisalkalanpatti and Swami Mallampatti villages in Tirumangalam Taluk in the district for establishing an industrial park.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Chitra Venkataraman and Justice M. Duraiswamy said that the proposed site contained dry lands that were dependent on the northeast monsoon for raising any crop. On the other hand, setting up an industrial park here would lead to socio-economic benefits in the form of employment generation.

The judges said that the petitioner’s contention that acquisition of cultivable lands would throw marginal farmers out of employment was countered by the State by contending that the interest of these farmers would be taken care of by assuring job opportunities to one member in each family providing one acre and above for the project.

“It is no doubt that public interest is the central theme in every policy decision and that the State has to take into consideration all the relevant factors that come in promoting public interest. In this case, when one aspect of public interest gets priority over the other, ordinarily, it is not for the court to substitute its decision,” the judges said.

They went on to state that “it is totally within the wisdom of the State to evolve a policy that meets the felt needs of the time and the society in the path of economic progress. Given the role and authority of three Constitutional instrumentalities, in matters of economic policy, the court must defer to the executive judgement.”

Writing the judgement, Ms. Justice Venkataraman said the petitioner association’s contention that marginal farmers would be out of employment was also belied by the fact that only around 100 workers were involved in active cultivation in these three villages put together.

The State Government announced its decision to promote industrial growth in Madurai district while presenting the budget for 2008-09. Subsequently, the Industrial Secretary and the Collector hit upon the land in Tirumangalam after considering factors such as proximity to highways and airport and availability of water among others.

A field inspection report filed by the District Revenue Officer stated that the selected lands were lying fallow and there were no places of worship or of archaeological importance.

It also pointed out that out of the total extent to be acquired 1,453.78 acres were ‘patta’ lands and the rest were ‘poromboke’ lands.

The judges agreed with Additional Advocate General (AAG) P. Wilson that there was hardly any material to prove the petitioner association’s contention that the agricultural operations were carried out in the lands throughout the year thereby providing a fairly good income to the agriculturalists.

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