Chennai, Aug 29: The Madras High Court today criticised Salem district authorities for allowing encroachments on water bodies, saying it is necessary that the administration should fix responsibility on officers concerned who allowed them.
The court recorded the unconditional apology tendered by Salem District Collector V Sampath for not complying with court order on clearing encroachments in time.
The First Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice R Mahadevan, had directed the collector to be present in court while hearing a PIL filed by one P Subramanian stating that the district administration was not taking action on an earlier court order.
The petitioner had first filed a petition in February 2016 about encroachments and unauthorised construction on Kollam Kuttai Lake in Salem district. He sought a direction to the authorities to remove the encroachments following which the first bench had directed the collector on February 11 to carry out an inspection and clear the encroachments within three months.
The petitioner filed the present plea as there was no action on the order. Expressing unconditional apology for not implementing the court order within the time limit, the collector said, "It is neither wilful nor wanton, but due to bonafide administrative reasons...."
The bench perused the status report filed by the collector, which stated that certain "pattas" for residential plots were given to some people.
"We have perused the status report filed by the collector. It has set forth succinctly the enormity of the mess already created by issuance of pattas by the authorities not eligible to do so, pattas being issued for water-body areas which is impermissible...and allotting of the area for residential plots with sale to third parties.
"It, however, appears that the authorities have finally woken up to the issue and have now issued notices/are issuing notices."
The bench said, "There are stated to be 105 water bodies under the control of the PWD in Salem district and a committee has now been constituted to prevent encroachments and preserve the water bodies.
Better late than never! We are of the view that there has been gross negligence and collusion in such widespread violations and it is necessary for the department to also look into the issue administratively to fix responsibility and impose appropriate consequences on the officers concerned," it said and directed the collector to file further status report within six weeks and posted the matter for hearing to October 24.