The Madras High Court bench at Madurai has stayed demolition of houses and felling of trees at Thirparappu village in Kanyakumari district for construction of Samathuvapuram (government’s egalitarian housing colony).

A divising bench comprising Justice D Murugesan and Justice S Nagamuthu in their interim order also directed officials not to remove the trees that were felled.

The petitioner, one Vasantha, said 3,000 rubber and coconut trees had been felled and there were 73 houses, which were built about 50 years ago in the land.

The residents’ forefathers, who were engaged in the construction of Pechiparai dam, had occupied the land classified as poromboke (government) land and cultivated mango, coconut and arecanut in the area and the houses were assessed for property tax and numbered besides having electricity connection.

Though their application for issue of patta was pending with the collector the administration decided to establish samathuvapuram in the same area for the homeless people.

Disposing their petitions, the bench on october 16 permitted the officials to survey the land. However, they were ordered to identify 4.05 hectares out of 9.72 hectares of land available in the locality, with no disturbance to people already living for long years.

The petitioner said the revenue officials ‘misunderstood’ the order as licence to evict people and came with 300 policemen on November 23 and razed many houses without issuing notice to residents.