The Assistant Director (Panchayats), Madurai, R. Ramya Devi, appeared before the Madras High Court Bench here on Tuesday and said that works had begun to raise the level of the roadside abutting the court's compound wall on the Madurai-Melur highway at a cost of Rs. 1.25 lakh.

Justices P. Jyothimani and M.M. Sundresh had summoned her pursuant to a public interest litigation petition filed by M. Thirunavukarasu, president of Madurai Bench High Court Advocates' Association, alleging poor upkeep of the areas adjacent to the court campus.

Defending Ms. Devi, Special Government Pleader K. Mahendran produced a letter written by her to Registrar (Administration) V. Vijayan of the High Court Bench on September 14 listing out the steps taken with regard to various grievances of the PIL petitioner.

As per the letter, the High Court Bench was constructed on areas surrounded by Ulaganeri kanmoi (tank) and the adjacent wet lands. Drainage water got stagnated near the exclusive entrance to judges' cars on the eastern side of the court complex as it was a low-lying area. The land where the drainage water stagnated belonged to an individual and there was no provision to drain it. The only option available was to lay underground pipeline from Othakadai to a drainage channel near Meenakshi Mission Hospital in Uthangudi.

“The estimated cost for the project was around Rs. 30 lakh. But there were no funds with the local body to take up the work. Nevertheless, now that the Uthangudi panchayat was all set to be annexed with Madurai Corporation, there are chances of taking up the work under schemes such as Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission,” she said.

The officer also stated that already Rs. 1.7 lakh had been spent to raise the level of the roadside abutting the court compound wall. Further, the Uthangudi panchayat had deposited Rs. 47,480 to the electricity board on September 9 for erecting four sodium vapour lamps outside the court campus. This was in addition to five lamps erected by the panchayat. The Othakadai panchayat had also erected two streetlights near the court campus. The Narasingam panchayat had also agreed to deposit Rs. 40,375 for erection of two sodium vapour lamps on the northern side of the road opposite the court entrance. All these lamps would be erected soon to ensure the safety of people passing through the road.

On the allegation that the Uthangudi panchayat was not responding to the needs of the court despite payment of Rs. 2.99 lakh towards property tax for every six months, the Assistant Director said that the panchayat had deputed 27 sanitary workers for the court complex and paying each of them at the rate of Rs. 1,290 per month.

After recording the contents of the letter, the judges adjourned the case to October 11 with a direction to the petitioner to include the Madurai Municipal Corporation as one of the respondents. They also recorded their appreciations to the authorities concerned for taking prompt action to raise the level of the roadside abutting the court compound.