The Madras High Court Bench here on Wednesday restrained Tamil Nadu Minerals Limited (TAMIN), a State government undertaking, from quarrying near a hillock containing ancient Jain abodes, frescoes and Tamil Brahmi inscriptions at Keezhavalavu Panchayat in Melur Taluk near here.

Allowing a public interest litigation petition, Justices N. Paul Vasanthakumar and R. Subbiah directed the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to protect the Keezhavalavu hillock from extinction besides ensuring proper protection of the Jain abodes and other relics.

The judges rejected the stand taken by TAMIN as well as the Madurai Collector that no damage would be caused to the archaeological site as the quarrying operations were being conducted 300 metres away from the hillock using a specialised chemical for blasting rocks without emitting any noise.

Writing the judgement, Mr. Justice Vasanthakumar pointed out that Article 49 of the Constitution mandates the State Government to protect every monument or place or object or artistic or historic interest from spoliation, disfigurement, destruction, removal, disposal or export.

“Moreover, the Archaeological Survey of India had filed a counter affidavit stating that they have addressed a letter to the District Collector to stop the quarrying operations in the said site. Hence, we are of the view that quarrying cannot be allowed to continue in the entire area spread over 51.77 acres,” the Bench said.

A. Mahaboob Batcha, Managing Trustee of Society for Community Organisation (SOCO) Trust, a non-governmental organisation based in Madurai and two other individuals — S. Bhuvaneswari and G. Pandi — had filed the present PIL petition in 2008 to protect the archaeological sites.

Petitioners' counsel T. Lajapathi Roy claimed that the hillock as well as its adjoining area spread over 51.77 acres were declared as a protected monument by a notification issued as early as on July 14, 1921. Nevertheless, TAMIN began quarrying in the locality since 2007 despite objections raised by the local body.

While admitting the PIL petition on September 23, 2008, the High Court had passed an interim injunction restraining TAMIN from quarrying near the site. It had also appointed two advocate commissioners to inspect the site in order to ascertain the genuineness of the petitioners' allegations.