Taking a strict view of the menace of encroachment, the Madras High Court has said the government and its functionaries can take coercive steps, such as disconnection of electricity, water supply, and withdrawal of ration card to ensure that the encroachers do not get any benefits from January, 2019, including Pongal gifts, if any, declared by the government if they do not move to the area identified by the Slum Clearance Board.
A bench of Justice M Venugopal and Justice S Vaidyanathan said so while giving more time to the government to inform it regarding accommodation of encroachers, comprising 259 families from Elango street in Govindasamy Nagar, in the place earmarked by the Slum Clearance Board.
The bench also said that civic agencies cannot take the plea of law and order problem to justify the delay in moving the encroachers to the area identified by the Slum Clearance Board once the issues have been dealt with and decided by the court.
“…It is needless to mention that the respondents can take coercive steps, such as disconnection of electricity, water supply, and withdrawal of ration card from the present place forthwith to ensure that the encroachers do not get any benefits from January, 2019, including Pongal gifts, if any declared by the Government and ensure that a fresh ration card is issued to them only after their migration to the area identified by the Slum Clearance Board,” said the bench.
It directed the Chief Secretary to Government to circulate its order to the respective Departments, such as Electricity, Civil Supplies, TWAD Board, etc., for necessary action while posting the matter for January 2.
During the hearing, the bench was informed that 259 encroachments squatting on the canal bank in Elango Street, Govindasamy Nagar, have to be evicted and that other 49 encroachments have already been evicted.
S Prabhu, Standing Counsel appearing for Slum Clearance Board, submitted that there were tenements wherein the encroachers could be accommodated, provided a direction is issued by the court.
“…even after several months, no effective steps in respect of so-called issuance of notifying the slum were taken. When there are tenements available to accommodate encroachers, nothing prevents the respondents from evicting them from the present place so as to be accommodated in the place identified by the Slum Clearance Board. The plea of law and order problem, raised by the respondents cannot be acceded to. When there is an order passed by this Court, the same has got to be obeyed,” said the bench.
It granted the Additional Advocate General – VIII time till January 2 so as to inform the court regarding accommodation of encroachers in the place earmarked by the Slum Clearance Board.