Encroachers Of Water Bodies Shouldn’t Be Given Any Flood Relief Fund From Taxpayers' Money: Madras HC [Read Order]
“Citizen must feel free that even if there is large-scale rains, then the State is capable of dealing with such flood-related situations. However, the present situation is not providing any such guarantee or scope on account of large-scale encroachments in water bodies and water resources and other areas wherein the rain waters are preserved.”
Taking serious note of encroachment of water bodies in Chennai, the Madras High Court has issued a slew of directions to the District Collector to ensure that all such encroachments are evicted.
Justice SM Subramaniam also ordered that the encroachers of water bodies and water resources are not entitled to receive any Flood Relief Fund from the taxpayers' money.
The judge made this observation while considering a batch of writ petitions in which the petitioners contended that they were entitled to grant of patta in respect of the land and the portion of the building under their occupation. The Government Pleader opposed their plea and informed the court that property under their occupation are water bodies and, therefore, the competent officials are right in not granting patta in favour of the writ petitioners. The court was informed that the land claimed by them is classified as “water body” and used as a “Kulam”.
This is what made the court focus on the issue of encroachment of the water bodies in the city of Chennai. It observed: “This Court is of a strong opinion that it became a routine affairs in the State, more specifically, in and around the Chennai City, that the Government poramboke lands/water bodies and water resources are encroached by the few greedy men to the larger extent and such encroachments are happening certainly with the collusion and connivance of few greediest officials and with the support of some local politicians. Any right thinking person can never tolerate the illegal activities of such encroachers and the land mafias. It is duty mandatory on the part of the Executives to ensure that the Government lands, water bodies and water resources are protected and all the people get the natural resources for their utilisation and for their healthy and peaceful life.”
The court also observed that preservation of water and providing clean water to the citizen are within the meaning of “Right to Life”. “Humans cannot survive without water. Water, certainly, is life…In order to preserve the valuable fundamental right of “Right to Life”, this Court is of an opinion that the water bodies and protection of water is also to be construed as an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the judge said.
The court also reminded that the Chennai City had faced enough floods during previous years. “Every year during rainy season, people are afraid and their minds are under stress. The people are expecting floods even for a small range of rains. It is the duty of the State to remove such apprehensions from the minds of the citizen of the Greater Chennai and all over the State. Citizen must feel free that even if there is large-scale rains, then the State is capable of dealing with such flood-related situations. However, the present situation is not providing any such guarantee or scope on account of large-scale encroachments in water bodies and water resources and other areas wherein the rain waters are preserved.”
Terming the encroachers ‘grave offenders’, the court said: “All these encroachers of water bodies and water resources are not entitled for any Flood Relief Funds from the taxpayers' money (Government Funds). The Government cannot extend any Flood Relief Fund to these encroachers, who are all in the occupation of the water bodies and water resources, as they are committing an act of offence and infringing the fundamental rights of all other citizen of this great Nation.”
Following directives were issued:
- The first respondent/The Secretary to Government, Revenue Department, Fort Saint George, Chennai-9, is directed to issue appropriate orders to the competent authorities concerned stating that the encroachers of water bodies and water resources are not entitled to receive any Flood Relief Fund from the taxpayers' money (Government Funds);
- The second respondent/District Collector, Chennai District, is directed to conduct a Review Meeting, within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order and issue suitable orders to all the officials concerned from various Government Departments and initiate immediate actions to evict all encroachments made in water bodies and water resources within Chennai District and keep the water bodies open for preservation of water and in the interest of the public at large;
- The District Collector, Chennai, is directed to ensure that all such encroachments in water bodies and water resources are evicted by invoking the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Land Encroachments Act, 1905 or the Tamil Nadu Protection of Tanks and Eviction of Encroachment Act, 2007, whichever is applicable, within a period of eight weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order;
- The District Collector, Chennai District, is directed to conduct an enquiry on various illegalities and irregularities regarding all such encroachment issues and in the event of negligence, collusion, misconduct or dereliction of duty on the part of the Government Officials/Public Servants, then initiate appropriate prosecutions and departmental disciplinary proceedings under the Discipline and Appeal Rules;
- The Commissioner of Police, Greater Chennai, is directed to provide adequate police protection for the purpose of eviction of all the encroachers in water bodies and water resources to be carried out by the District Collector, Chennai City; and
- The District Collector, Chennai is directed to submit a compliance report in this regard, within a period of twelve weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.
Read the Order Here