The Madras High Court Bench here on Monday refused to restrain the Centre from shifting the Survey of Medicinal Plants Unit - Siddha (SMPU-S) functioning on the premises of the Government Siddha Medical College at Palayamkottai in Tirunelveli district to Mettur in Salem district.

Convinced with reasons adduced for shifting the unit, a Division Bench of Justice Chitra Venkataraman and Justice M. Duraiswamy dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by the Friends of Siddha Medicine, a registered trust formed with an objective of protecting and promoting Siddha medicine.

In his counter affidavit, K. Ganapathiraman (59), Director, Central Research Institute for Siddha, Chennai, said that utilisation of a portion of a medical college at Salem was only a temporary measure. The SMPU-S would actually be located at a Medicinal Plants Garden spread over 22 acres owned by the Institute at Mettur Dam.

Claiming that no cultivable land was available at the existing unit in Palayamkottai, he said the new location was selected because it contained fertile soil. There was a plan to establish a full fledged laboratory with necessary facilities such as a museum, herbarium repository and gene bank in the new site.

“This is the first time in the history of Indian Systems of Medicine in general, a vast land has been taken up for cultivation of rare medicinal plants with a proposal to highlight the garden as Model Medicinal Plants Garden for farmers, researchers, academicians and students to gain knowledge," Dr. Ganapathiraman said.

A major portion of the 22 acres had been earmarked to cultivate medicinal plants. This would cater to the needs of the Research Institute as well as the laboratories of other organisations. The medicinal plants collected from Palayamkottai and other areas could be cultivated at the new location.

The SMPU-S was functioning at Palayamkottai for the last 38 years since its establishment in 1971. Hence, the Centre decided to shift it to Mettur to expand its activities in the area of collection of Rare, Endangered and Threatened (RET) plants having high IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) values.

Denying the petitioner’s contention that the new location had only a tin shed of 150 sq.ft., the Director stated that the Medicinal Plants Garden at Mettur was attached with a 1932 sq.ft. camp office building with reinforced cement concrete roof on 6,440 sq.ft. of land. There was also a proposal to renovate it at a cost of Rs. 7.5 lakh.

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