Taking note of the Pongal festival, the Supreme Court on Monday ordered the unsealing of T. Nagar shops, which were sealed from October 31 last, for six weeks.

Special leave petitions

A Bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Dipak Misra passed the order on special leave petitions from the Ranganathan Street Merchants Association and others against the Madras High Court order of December 21, 2011 asking them to approach the monitoring committee for relief.

The Bench passed the order after hearing senior counsel Ravi Shankar Prasad, Altaf Ahmed, Aryama Sundaram, P. Wilson and Counsel V. Balaji for the association and other merchants and Additional Advocate General Guru Krishna Kumar for the State, senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan and counsel T. Mohan for the Consumer Action Group, the petitioner before the High Court.

The Bench in its brief order said, “By our order dated November 11, 2011 this court asked the High Court to hear the association and other applications and pass appropriate orders in accordance with law.”

Instead of dealing with the applications of unsealing, the High Court had directed the monitoring committee to dispose of the applications.

“In the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, we direct the High Court to dispose of all the unsealing applications filed by the association and others when the matter is taken up for hearing in the fourth week of January. In the peculiar facts and circumstances we deem it appropriate to direct unsealing of the shops for six weeks”, the Bench said and disposed of the matter.

Association's grievance

The association and other shop keepers were aggrieved that the buildings were sealed by declaring them as unauthorised and illegal, when their applications for regularisation were still pending before the authorities concerned for which huge amounts had been collected.

When senior counsel faulted the High Court for asking the petitioners to approach the monitoring committee, Justice Bhandari observed, “When we had asked the High Court to consider the applications, it ought to have decided them on merits.”

“No authority”

When Mr. Guru Krishna Kumar submitted that all the applicants were issued notice about the violations and only the monitoring committee was competent to decide individual matters, Justice Bhandari said: “If they [applicants] or the State are aggrieved over the decision of the monitoring committee what is the remedy? The High Court should have decided the matter and not delegated the matter to an authority which itself has no authority to decide the issue.”

Mr. Aryama Sundaram intervened and brought to the notice of the court a petition filed by the State seeking review of an order passed by the High Court appointing the monitoring committee, saying the committee had no jurisdiction to decide the matter.

When the review petition was still pending how could the applicants approach the committee and seek relief before the same, he asked.

Plea for interim direction

Mr. Prasad pleaded for an interim direction for opening of the shops in view of the Pongal festival and a direction to the High Court to dispose of the pending applications.

The Bench passed the order accordingly.