Backs move to use building for hospital

Declining to interfere with a major policy decision of the AIADMK government, the Madras High Court on Thursday upheld the shifting of the Legislative Assembly-cum-Secretariat complex back from the Omandurar Government Estate to Fort St.George and the plan to convert the structure into a multi super-specialty hospital and a government medical college.

Dismissing petitions challenging the shifting of the Secretariat and the proposal to use the building as a hospital, a specially-constituted Division Bench comprising Justices K.N.Basha and N.Paul Vasanthakumar said the decision to convene the sitting of the Legislative Assembly and the Secretariat was purely a matter of internal procedure adopted by the Legislature. This court was not entitled to interfere in the said decision, particularly when no violation of any constitutional provision was attracted.

The decision to establish the hospital was announced in the Assembly, which also approved it.

It was a policy decision to convert the complex into a hospital.

The court said the decision to convert the structure could not be stated to be arbitrary. The policy would promote and protect public interest, more particularly, weaker sections for getting better and expert treatment for serious ailments.

“It is made clear that the government should take all necessary steps for giving treatment to the poor and deserving people free of cost.”

The petitions were filed by R.Veeramani and S.A.Miyajan. Mr.Veeramani, contended that the government’s decision was arbitrary and opposed to public interest. The decision to convert the Assembly-cum-Secretariat complex, which was specifically designed and constructed for that purpose, into a hospital was due to non-application of mind and based on no material.

Accepting the submission of Senior Counsel Rakesh Dwivedi and Advocate-General A.Navaneethakrishnan, the Bench said on a perusal of Art.174 of the Constitution (Sessions of State Legislature, prorogation and dissolution), it was evident that the Governor should from time to time summon the House to meet at such time and place as he thought fit. The provision nowhere stated that the same would apply only for first sitting as contended by the petitioner’s counsel. The words used were ‘from time to time’ and ‘to meet at such time and place.’ Messrs.Justices Basha and Paul Vasanthakumar said for implementing the decision to establish a hospital, an expert committee was constituted which visited the Omanthurar Government Estate along with technical experts, including architects. Based on their opinion further steps were taken for converting the ‘A’ Block of the new structure into a hospital. The government’s decision was perfectly valid and legal.

The government decision could not be stated to be arbitrary or hasty without any material on record. If a multi-super specialty hospital was established, it would promote public interest. The authorities had obtained environmental clearance and a no objection certificate from the Fire and Rescue Services Department for the conversion of the new building. Applications had been made to the TNPCB and the CMDA.

As the issue of grant of environmental clearance for the conversion was pending before the National Green Tribunal, the court said it could not go into that aspect. It was the authorities’ specific stand that the present endeavour was not to make any new construction, but only to modify the existing structure.

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