EDITORIAL FEATURES

The ‘green bench’ that has delivered landmark judgements

Sprawling campus:A view of the Madras High Court Bench in Madurai— Photo: S. James

Sprawling campus:A view of the Madras High Court Bench in Madurai— Photo: S. James  

The Madras High Court bench here is only a year away from celebrating its 10{+t}{+h}anniversary.

Established in 2004, the court is a boon to the people in thirteen southern districts of Tamil Nadu. The bench has Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Madurai, Dindigul, Ramanathapuram, Virudhunagar, Theni, Sivaganga, Pudukottai, Tanjore, Tiruchi and Karur districts under its jurisdiction.

The sprawling 107-acre campus is one of the largest court campuses in the country and the spacious four-storey administrative building attracts hundreds of litigants every day. The court complex has 12 court halls, furnished on the model of the court halls in the Supreme Court, the Delhi and the Madras High Courts.

The court, since its inauguration on July 24, 2004, has perked up the legal process in the southern districts and has cultivated a large number of social activists, who vouch for the interest of the public though their public interest litigations.

Public interest litigations in environmental violations such as axing of trees, illegal quarrying and encroachments are heard in large numbers. According to advocates, on an average at least 100 public interest litigations are filed in the bench every month. Eleven judges from the Madras High Court visit the bench on a rotation basis every three months to hear and dispose of the cases.

Innumerable judgements are being passed in the court every day on public interest cases and others. Some of the landmark judgments include banning sand quarrying in Tamiraparani river, ordering the National Highway Authority to realign its layout in Kanyakumari to save an irrigation tank and ordering the State to conserve hillocks with historical significance like the Yanamalai hillock in Madurai.

Expressing its concern for the environment, the bench on several occasions ordered against axing of trees.

One of the notable judgements was against the felling of ‘karuvelam’ (Acacia nilotica) trees at Vaagaikulam tank near Alwarkurichi. Several species of birds continue to nest in the tank due to the landmark ruling of the bench.

Landmark judgements

Justice K.Chandru, who had a good track record in disposal of petitions and had delivered landmark judgements, had ruled during his sitting in the bench that mobile phones can be used inside the court halls if they do not disturb the court proceedings. In yet another unusual judgement, the judge had directed the State to formulate a new scheme to provide rehabilitation to the differently-abled.

He had directed the State to combine Sections 38 and 66 of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, after it was brought to his notice that there were no provisions under the existing act to let a differently-abled petitioner to set up a kiosk at a public bus stand.

Justice V.Ramasubramanian, in one of his judgements, ruled that banks had the authority to deny educational loans to the students who did not fare well in examinations.

“Educational loans are provided to students envisaging that they will repay the loan after completion of studies. A bank cannot grant loan to a student who does not fare well assuming that he will turn out to be a Steve Jobs. Only one out of hundreds of failed students turn out to be successful and the bank cannot gamble with public money”, he ruled, while dismissing the petition filed by a student challenging a bank’s move to decline him loan.

Written testimony

A 300-page book, by advocates T.Lajapathi Roy and G.Prabhu Rajadurai of the bench, titled ‘Green Bench of India’ stands testimony to the rich flora and fauna of the sprawling court complex.

The book, penned after an extensive research for eight months on the court campus by the two advocates, says that 76 species of trees, 28 species of birds and more than 15 varieties of insects were identified on the court premises.

However, a recent petition initiated suo motu by the court indicated that the court complex was reeling under severe water crisis.

Of the 25 borewells on the premises, most of them became dry, the registrar had stated in his petition. As the water tank located adjacent to the court complex was dry, the court relies on the Madurai Corporation for water supply. A division bench here recently directed the Corporation authorities to supply eight tankers of water to the court daily.

One of the constant demands of the advocates affiliated to the various bar associations in the bench is to increase the strength of the judges in the court. By increasing the number of judges alone, the backlog of pending cases — that is more than 30,000 to date — can be cleared, they insist.

— M. Vandhana



The sprawling 107-acre campus is one of the largest court campuses in the country

On an average, at least 100 public interest litigations are filed in the bench every month

Eleven judges from the Madras High Court visit the bench on a rotation basis every three months


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