Underlining the importance of preservation of water bodies, the Madras High Court recently declared that water bodies play an important role in maintaining the ecology and environment and that land use designated as a body of water for any other purpose would be detrimental to society as a whole. The court thus emphasized that it was the duty of officials to preserve and protect government lands that have been set aside for specific purposes.
On many occasions, this court has ruled that the uncontrolled encroachment of water bodies has considerably reduced the reserved area in the interest of public and ecological balance. It is the imperative duty of the officials of the Department of Revenue and the Department of Public Works to preserve and protect government lands which have been set aside for specific purposes. Unquestionably, such encroachments could not have taken place without the knowledge of the authorities.
The bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice N Mala disposed of the motions challenging notices issued in Form III under Rule 6(1) of the Tamil Nadu Encroachment Tank Protection and Eviction Rules 2007.
The applicants had challenged the opinions on the ground that they had not had the opportunity to provide an explanation. It was also argued that the Form III notice was issued without issuing the Form II notice and that the respondents should have asked for explanations before issuing the notice.
The Respondent, on the other hand, argued that the Form III notices were given in accordance with law. It was argued that the Rules do not provide for the possibility of a hearing. The boundaries of the reservoirs were demarcated after investigation and posted on the Public Works Department Notice Board and based on these a Notice in the form of Form III was issued.
The court noted that in view of the Madras High Court decision in TSSenthil Kumar v. The government of Tamil Nadu and others who analyzed the provisions of the Protection of Tanks and Expulsion of Tamil Nadu Encroachment Act 2007 and the rules, the principles of natural justice have to be followed and the part which receives the notice should be free to raise objections.
The court noted that the petitioners had gone to court without raising any objections or making any representations against the Form III notices. The court thus allowed the applicants to raise their objections and return the documents establishing the applicants’ rights. The petitioners, however, could not refer to such documents and instead drew the attention of the court to a road constructed by the Public Works Department on Odai land. The court, however, felt that it could not accept this assertion.
Otherwise, we cannot accept the above argument and if the said plea is accepted, then the overall encroachment in the State of Tamil Nadu on water bodies and reservoirs cannot be removed although the encroachment on bodies of water and reservoirs are not permitted in accordance with the provisions of the Act and the Regulations as well as the judgment of the Apex Court and even the judgment of the Grand Court in the case of TKShanmugam (supra). It does not allow or authorize the government to even issue patta in the land of water bodies and reservoirs.
Thus, the court was not in favor of granting the petitioners relief for ordering the government to issue pattas regarding water bodies/reservoirs. Since the petitioners could not establish a case justifying interference with the notices, the court dismissed the petitions.
“The problem of global warming is only widespread because of the failure of human beings to take care of nature. It is the imperative duty of every citizen to maintain bodies of water, reservoirs, pastures and even forests. If we continue to affect nature, it would affect human beings and it happens day by day in the form of natural disasters like tsunami, earthquake, etc.,“, said the court in farewell.
Case title: Kamalanathan and others v. State and others
Case no: WP No 22408 of 2022 etc. batch
Quote: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 384
Counsel for applicants: Mr VM Venkatramana
Counsel for Respondents: MASelvendran Spl. Government litigator
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