The Madras High Court directs removal of unauthorised flag poles in TN by Apr 1

The Madras High Court has directed election officials to remove all unauthorised flag poles of political parties in public places throughout Tamil Nadu by April 1.

A bench comprising justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad gave the direction Monday on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a complete ban on erection of poles in public places.

Petitioner A Radhakrishnan of Salem submitted that most of the political parties “encroached” upon public places such as roadside, parks and play grounds and erect their flagpoles permanently, causing hindrance.

Claiming that there had been clashes due to dispute between rival political parties over flag poles, he said using power drilling machines while digging for temporary erection of poles during party conferences, public meetings also damaged underground telecom and power cables.

When the PIL came up for hearing, the Tamil Nadu government counsel submitted that 58,172 flag poles in rural and urban areas had been removed and another 799 were being dismantled.

The petitioner said the Election Commission has issued direction to the police and revenue officials to remove all such flag poles and hoardings put up by political parties.

Alleging that officials, however, were turning a blind eye to these violations for reasons best known to them, he contended such acts were punishable for offences under the Tamil Nadu Public Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act, 1992.

Election Commission standing counsel Niranjan Rajagopalan, citing reports from 21 district collectors-cum-district election officers, said the flag poles had been removed in these districts.

Steps were being taken to remove the unauthorised poles in the rest 11 districts in the state, he added.

Recording the submissions, the bench posted the matter to April 1 for further hearing.

HC dismisses PILs challenging bus fare hike in Tamil Nadu

The Madras High Court today dismissed two PILs challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s recent order increasing bus fares, saying it cannot interfere in policy decisions.

The First Bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose before which the PILs filed by V Munikrishnan and George Williams, an advocate, came up, refused to interfere in the issue stating that it is a policy decision.

However, the bench directed the government to take immediate steps to display fare charts in all government and private buses prominently.

The bench in its order said, “There is no doubt that any price hike, including the bus fare hike would affect the people. However, fare fixation is a matter of policy, in which the high court cannot interfere.”

One of the petitioners Munikrishnan submitted that he came to know through the print and visual media that the state government has increased the bus fares from January 20, citing various reasons like hike in prices of diesel, spare parts, maintenance of buses and transport employees salary, etc.

The other petitioner William contended that the hike was unjustified, arbitrary and has been made without following procedures.

Referring to a statistical report, he said 80 per cent of the people used buses to travel, particularly the poor and middle class people adding the state government has been spending huge public money for achieving their political goals and shifting the burden on the public.

Munikrishnan said when people were already suffering due to GST, demonetisation and hike in prices of other basic needs, the state government has hiked bus fare.

In his plea, Williams wanted the court to interfere immediately by passing an interim order restraining the government from collecting the revised fare which he claimed was adversely affecting the people and student community.

Advocate General Vijay Narayan, who appeared on behalf the state submitted that for the past seven years the government has not increased bus fares.

The bench which refused to interfere in the issue, said matters like bus fare hike were purely under the government’s domain and and dismissed the petitions.

Madras HC refuses to stay eviction of slum-dwellers in city

The Madras High Court today refused to stay eviction of residents from 36 slums in the city saying a blanket order cannot be granted without hearing the state government’s version.

Refusing any interim relief, a vacation bench headed by Justice MS Ramesh ordered notice to the state government returnable by January 5, 2108 on a PIL moved by Pennurimai Iyakkam, a women’s welfare organisation.

Charging the Public Works Department and Chennai Corporation with resorting to mass eviction of slum-dwellers without abiding by the provisions of Tamil Nadu Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act of 1971, it claimed slum dwellers across the city were being evicted forcibly without notification of their residential areas as slum areas, as required under the law.

According to the petitioner, already residents of about 22 slums in MK Stalin Nagar and Thideer Nagar had been evicted fully and those in five slums had been evicted partially.

Residents of about 36 slums in the west, east and south of Cooum, Tiruverkadu and Melpakkam, among other places, were facing the threat of eviction, the petitioner added.

The petitioner further contended that alternative accommodation provided for such evicted families at far-off locations, has led to loss of livelihood and educational opportunities for their children.

“The displaced children, without the possibility of continued education, fall in the hands of anti-social elements, and which is not good for society,” the organisation said in the plea.

HC demands uninterrupted power in courts

The Madras High CourtThe Madras High Court granted two weeks’ time to the Law Secretary to file a counter on a plea seeking a direction to take steps to provide generators or inverters in every court in the state for uninterrupted power.

It also directed the Law Secretary to deposit Rs 5000 with the mediation centre. When the matter came up, the government pleader again sought time for filing the counter.

The First Bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, which granted the time with costs to the Law Secretary, warned, “If the affidavit is not filed within two weeks, the Principal Secretary concerned shall remain present in court with records on the next hearing date.”

The bench then posted the matter for further hearing to November 3. The petition was filed by Chennai advocate Chitra Velu. On August 7, the bench had directed the government pleader to obtain instructions as to what steps have been taken in pursuance to the communication addressed by the court Registrar General.

It had also directed the Law Secretary to inform the court through an affidavit within two weeks from that day on the steps taken or envisaged in the matter of providing generators or inverters to courts