The National Green Tribunal on Tuesday pulled up the State government for commencing a multi-super-specialty hospital at the Omandurar Estate on Anna Salai even while an appeal against the environment clearance given for the conversion was pending before it.
The High Court and Supreme Court had already dismissed petitions challenging the decision of the present government to convert the Assembly-cum-Secretariat complex into an advanced hospital for super-specialties, declining to interfere with a policy matter.
On Tuesday, the National Green Tribunal, Southern Bench, comprising judicial member Justice M.Chockalingam, and expert member Prof. R. Nagendran, heard an appeal against the environmental clearance granted by a State-level authority for the proposed conversion.
M. Seenivasagan, counsel for the appellant, R.Veeramani, moved an application before the Bench seeking an interim injunction restraining the State government from carrying on any process of alteration or modification in the structure.
Mr. Justice Chockalingam said newspaper reports stated that the government had commenced the super-specialty hospital even while the matter was pending before the tribunal.
He told Advocate General A. Navaneethakrishnan: “What was the haste for converting the building into a super-specialty hospital? The government commenced its activities on January 30 itself while the matter is pending before this Tribunal. We expected fair play. What do you propose to do now except saying there was no stay? Why should you not wait for the result of the appeal?”
The AG replied that it was a referral hospital. “It is like a dry run.” He submitted that a small area was cleared for the purpose and it was not the entire area. There was no adverse environmental impact.
Unwilling to accept the argument, Mr. Justice Chockalingam said: It seems that your people don’t care for law. Do they think this court is powerless or that this Tribunal is defunct?”
He noted that if the appeal was allowed and the Tribunal said the works will have to be stopped, the works should be stopped.
The AG explained that only a board was fixed at the premises to create awareness to the poor people. “There is no full-fledged hospital. It is only an outpatient clinic,” he added.
After hearing his submission, the Bench directed the State government to file a counter on Wednesday. “If necessary, we may go to the spot after the counter is filed.”
Originally, the DMK government constructed the new Secretariat-cum-Assembly building at the Omandurar Government Estate.
After coming to power in 2011, the AIADMK government took policy decision to convert the structure into a super-specialty hospital. It was challenged in the Madras High Court by an advocate R.Veeramani. In the meantime, he also preferred an appeal before National Green Tribunal challenging the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA)’s environmental clearance dated May16 last year for conversion.
In January, the High Court dismissed the petitions.
Upholding that order, the Supreme Court on January 31 stated that reliefs sought by the “petitioner have to be pursued in some other forum” where the subject matter can be gone into.” Hence the subject matter is now pending before the Tribunal.