The Madras High Court on Tuesday banned the use of oil, shampoos, soaps and washing of clothes in the bathing area of the Courtallam falls in Tirunelveli district. It observed that the falls was not being maintained in tune with its historical fame and glory.

A Division Bench, comprising Justices N. Kirubakaran and S.Vaidyanathan, passed the order on a public interest litigation petition by an advocate.

The court directed the authorities to ensure that the prohibited items were not carried to the bathing area. If the items were found, they should be seized and the violators fined.

The petitioner, R. Krishnasamy, said the falls should be maintained properly. During the season, several lakhs visited Courtallam but there was no regulation by police. Traffic was not being regulated despite a charge being collected for vehicles. There were no rooms for changing clothes for men and women.

The court appointed T.S.R. Venkataramana, an advocate and a former MLA, assisted by Arun alias Arunachalam as Advocate-Commissioners to inspect all the falls and file a report in May.

The Bench observed that the report gave details of the sorry state of affairs in Courtallam. The report pointed to pits in the Old Courtallam area, dilapidated condition of toilets, poor lighting facilities and lack of dressing room for women.

Mr. Justice Kirubakaran said the authorities should maintain the falls properly. Considering the condition, people were bound to get diseases by taking bath in the falls, instead of getting cured of their ailments. It was shocking to note that sewage was being drained into the river, which was supposed to be the source of drinking water for Tenkasi and Tirunelveli area. Though the local town panchayat had prohibited the sale of shampoos, soaps, oil and detergents, it was seen that no proper steps were taken to completely ban the sale or prevent visitors from carrying these items to the falls area.

In its nearly 30 directions to the authorities, the Bench said safety pillars and railings should be made of materials which do not rust. Pits and holes in the bathing area should be closed with good quality concrete. More high-mast lights should be erected in the falls area. Toilets should be repaired. Police should ensure that people did not drink in open places, public roads and even in cars. A mobile court should be stationed so that offenders were tried immediately.

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