Tamil Nadu

Officials haven't learnt a lesson from 2015 floods, says HC

The Madras High Court on Tuesday expressed strong displeasure over the State government and civic body officials not having taken stern action against unauthorised constructions across the State despite the havoc caused by the 2015 floods in Chennai.

Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and R. Hemalatha observed that the officials do not seem to have learnt any lesson from the devastation caused to the metropolis in December 2015 and their action against unauthorised constructions appeared to be wanting.

The observations were made during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition filed by advocate N. Rukmanganathan seeking a direction to the State government and Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) to crack down on all unauthorised constructions in Zone V.

The petitioner said that he had sought for details of the unauthorised constructions in Zone V from the officers concerned under the Right to Information Act of 2005 but it was not provided until he preferred first appeal and then went on second appeal to the State Information Commission.

Subsequently, the petitioner was informed that out of 6,317 buildings that were examined in Zone V in 2019, as many as 5,674 were found to be unauthorised constructions. Yet, the officials had issued only 3,195 de-occupation notices, 1,191 stop work notices, 679 lock and seal notices and ultimately locked and sealed just 115 buildings.

Wondering why action had been initiated only against select buildings and not others, the petitioner's counsel Nithyaesh Natraj said if there were over 5,674 unauthorised constructions in just one zone of the corporation, the figure might touch over a lakh if the illegal constructions in all 15 zones of the corporation were put together.

Agreeing with him, Justice Sathyanarayanan said the figures would be alarming if the entire State was taken in to consideration. "This is just a tip of the iceberg," the senior judge said and wondered what was the use of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1971 and the Chennai City Municipal Corporation Act of 1919.

In their interim order summoning the GCC Commissioner to the court on December 22 to explain the action taken so far against unauthorised constructions, the judges said it prima facie appears that no worthwhile or appropriate action had been taken so far despite several court orders.

The bench recalled that the Supreme Court and the High Court had passed numerous orders on the issue. Yet, around five writ petitions were being filed in the High Court on a daily basis seeking action against individual unauthorised constructions in different parts of the city.

It only leads to an inference that officials were abdicating their responsibilities and had failed to put in place an effective monitoring mechanism to keep a check on illegal constructions. The judges said that they would be constrained to summon the Chief Secretary too if the Corporation Commissioner does not come up with a satisfactory response.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 2:01:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/officials-havent-learnt-a-lesson-from-2015-floods-says-hc/article33173375.ece

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