Special Correspondent

Court to take up hearing on maintainability of petitions

Collector’s notices were per se illegal and without authority: company counsel

Notice issued after it was found that the natural flow of water was blocked: Advocate-General

Kochi: The Kerala High Court, on Tuesday, extended till Wednesday the status quo ordered with respect to the two check- dams constructed by the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company on the Lakshmi and Chanduvurrai estates and the electric fencing erected on its rose plantation in Munnar.

Justice P.R. Ramachandran Nair extended the status quo while posting the petitions filed by the company to Wednesday for hearing arguments on the question of maintainability of the petitions.

Human cause

When the petitions were taken up for hearing, counsel for the company contended that the show-cause notices issued for demolishing the dams were illegal. They should not be demolished and they were serving a human cause.

He pleaded that at least the government could maintain the dams but it should not be demolished. He contended that at the time of issuing notice to the company, the District Collector had not been authorised to do so by the government. Therefore, the notices were per se illegal and without authority. Besides, these were issued without obtaining the opinion of expert bodies such as the Dam Safety Authority.

Advocate-General C.P. Sudhakara Prasad contended that the Collector had initiated the proceedings in the backdrop of a Division Bench’s observations on the encroachments in Munnar. The notice was issued after the authorities found that the natural flow of water was blocked.

He contended that as far as the government was concerned, no check-dams existed on the estates. In fact, these were built recently.

He submitted that though the District Collector had not been earlier authorised to issue notices under the Irrigation and Conservation of Water Act, the government later issued an order authorising the Collector and ratifying the entire proceedings initiated by the official.

Legal duty

He submitted that as per the Act, all the waterbodies were properties of the government. No constructions in waterbodies should be undertaken without its permission. It was the legal duty of the government to protect and conserve the natural resources of the State.

Countering an argument, he said the Dam Safety Authority came into the picture only when the safety of a dam was threatened. The check-dams were constructed without the permission of the government.

Citing various Supreme Court and High Court rulings, he pointed out that the writ petitions were not maintainable.

He submitted that the petitioners had no right to challenge the show-cause notices before the court. If the parties were aggrieved, they could have resorted to the statutory remedies.

More petitions

A petition filed by Kanakamani Thampuratty of the Poonjar Kovilakam seeking to implead her as additional respondent came up before the court. She said the land belonged to the Kovilakam and it was her family which had leased out the land to the company.

Kamaraj, Devikulam panchayat member and chairman of the development committee, sought to implead himself in the case, pleading that the dams should not be demolished.