The Madras High Court has ordered an inquiry by the Joint Director of Town and Country Planning in Coimbatore district into allegations that Isha Foundation had put up unauthorised constructions on 20.805 hectares of land at Ikkarai Poluvampatti village in Perur Taluk.
Chief Justice S.V. Gangapurwala and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu passed the orders while disposing of a 2017 public interest litigation petition filed by Velliangiri Hills Tribals Protection Society, represented by its president P. Muthammal, for restoring the wetlands by demolishing the unauthorised constructions.
Filing a status report in response to the PIL petition, the Deputy Director of Town and Country Planning told the court that out of 20.805 hectares, falling under 23 different survey numbers mentioned by the PIL petitioner, 15.53 hectares had been classified as ‘Nanjai’ (wetland) and 5.275 hectares had been classified as ‘Punjai’ (dryland).
The officials also stated that the owner of those lands had been mentioned as Isha Foundation in the government website. However, no records were available with the office of the town and country planning with respect to any kind of approval having been granted for putting up constructions on those lands.
“No record has been found in this office regarding Collector NOC [No Objection Certificate], pollution control board NOC, Hill Area Conservation Authority NOC, Fire department NOC, etc. On verifying with Ikkarai Poluvampatti panchayat, it is learnt that no permission has been issued by the panchayat president too,” the Deputy Director R. Rajaguru said.
He said it was mandatory to obtain a NOC from the Collector to construct religious institutions and that for the purpose of obtaining a NOC from the Hill Area Conservation Authority, it was essential to obtain permission from the Revenue Divisional Officer, geology and mines department, agri-engineering department and the forest department.
After taking the status report on file, the judges directed the Joint Director to verify whether everything was in order after scrutinising the documents filed by the PIL petitioner as well as Isha Foundation. “If the same is not in order, the Joint Director shall take further steps expeditiously with regard to the building that may not be constructed in accordance with the plan and the no objection certificate,” they ordered.
The Bench also directed Isha Foundation to place all documents, on which it would place reliance, before the Joint Director within two weeks.