Legislate to eradicate seemai karuvelam: HC

Division Bench issues two-month deadline for State government to enact a special law; warns officials against indifference in implementing its directive

Updated - November 28, 2021 09:48 pm IST

Published - February 28, 2017 12:42 am IST - MADURAI

Sluggish progress: Noting that only 10% of seemai karuvelam trees has been removed thus far, the High Court has warned that any let-up in efforts to eradicate the invasive species would be viewed seriously.

Sluggish progress: Noting that only 10% of seemai karuvelam trees has been removed thus far, the High Court has warned that any let-up in efforts to eradicate the invasive species would be viewed seriously.

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Monday directed the State government to enact a special legislation within the next couple of months, with prohibitory and penal clauses for eradicating seemai karuvelam ( prosopis juliflora ) — an invasive species of tree considered harmful to the environment — from public and private lands alike.

Justices A. Selvam and P. Kalaiyarasan passed the interim order on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary Vaiko in 2015. The Bench also directed the petitioner to remove seemai karuvelam trees in Sankarankovil Taluk, where his native place Kalingapatti is situated, within 15 days.

It was only last December that the judges began hearing the long-pending PIL in earnest. Initially, they directed the Collectors and other Revenue department officials of 13 districts under the territorial jurisdiction of the Madurai Bench to uproot seemai karuvelam trees completely from public as well as private lands, and report to the court.

Subsequently, expressing disappointment over the slow pace of progress by the Collectors in implementing the directive, the judges directed the respective Principal District Judges (PDJs) and District Munsifs to inspect the work carried out by the officials. They also appointed a contingent of 65 Advocate Commissioners to supervise the eradication of the trees.

During a hearing on February 10, the order to uproot the trees was extended to all districts across the State and the High Court judges themselves began carrying out inspections in various districts including Madurai, Sivaganga and Pudukkottai to obtain first-hand information with regard to the implementation of their directive.

“We ultimately found that only 10% of seemai karuvelam trees has been removed so far. Further, it is noticed that in some places, feigned removal of seemai karuvelam trees has been shown. Despite successive orders passed by this court, some of the District Collectors have not taken effective steps to remove the same,” the Bench said.

“They have shown an insouciant attitude in following the orders of this court,” the judges said, and directed the Collectors as well as a host of government authorities such as those heading the Public Works Department, the National Highways Authority of India and the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, to remove the trees from vacant lands within 15 days.

In the meantime, the PDJs and Munsifs in all 32 districts of the State were directed to inspect the eradication work as and when time permits and submit their reports to the High Court by March 20. Further, 75 additional Advocate Commissioners were appointed for northern and western districts, bringing their total strength across the State to 140.

The judges also recorded their appreciation for the “altruistic services” rendered by the existing 65 Advocate Commissioners, students, NGOs and social activists through various events to educate the people about the ills of seemai karuvelam .

“It is also reliably learnt that all newspapers and television channels have publicised this widely so as to sensitise the general public on the issue and therefore, this court appreciates their service and expects them to continue the same in the future,” the judges said, and directed Mr. Vaiko to file a ‘nil report’ by the time of the next hearing with respect to the presence of seemai karuvelam in his Taluk.

Cautioning government officials against a recalcitrant attitude, the Division Bench said, “The High Court will make surprise inspections and if any lapse is found, the same will be viewed seriously.” It also directed the government to sanction adequate funds periodically for uprooting these trees.

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