With blocking of entry through Kodanad Estate in Udhagamandalam becoming an election issue in Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court has directed the estate to allow free passage to villagers on the estate road during day and night.

Passing this interim order recently, a Bench of Justice Mukundakam Sharma and Justice Anil R. Dave said “the Estate shall not put any lock or create any obstruction in the movement of the traffic through the aforesaid road even during the night.”

In its order the Bench referred to the Madras High Court directions (under challenge in appeal before the Supreme Court) with regard to free passage on the road to the effect that the respondent-estate could not deny the villagers of Anna Nagar and Kamaraj Nagar access to the road, as was done in the last 30 years, considering the fact that the same was the only access to the outside world for those villagers.

The Bench said: “We are informed that the State of Tamil Nadu has initiated appropriate steps for acquisition of the land in question where the road exists but the urgency clause which is invoked by the State has been challenged by the estate and the said matter is pending before the High Court.

“We express no opinion with regard to the aforesaid case, which is pending in the High Court.”

The Bench said, “However, there is an allegation in the present petitions that restrictions are being placed by the estate on the free movement and use of the pathway during the night, making it impossible for villagers to have access to the outside world during the night in case of an emergency.”

It said: “Counsel for the estate disputed the aforesaid fact, yet in the facts and circumstances, we deem it appropriate to pass an order that the free passage through the said road shall be allowed during day and night and the estate shall not put any lock or create any obstruction in the movement of the traffic through the aforesaid road even during the night.

“However, it shall be open to the estate to deploy watchmen during the course of the night and there shall be a police picket at the place so as to restrict any movement of unruly elements using the road during the night.”

On behalf of Tamil Nadu it was submitted that residents of Anna Nagar and Kamaraj Nagar, with about 180 families, were using the pathway for several years and could not be denied access.

Any unlawful obstruction should be removed as the rights of the villagers would be affected.

Hearing after three months

The Bench posted the matter for further hearing after three months.