Saturday, January 21, 2012

HC stays move to alter new Secretariat complex

A view of the Assembly complex at Omandurar Government Estate, in Chennai. Photo : R. RavindranIn a setback to the AIADMK government, the Madras High Court on Friday granted an interim injunction restraining authorities from making any structural alterations to the new Legislative Assembly-cum-Secretariat complex at the Omandurar Government Estate on Anna Salai here until a writ petition challenging the decision to convert it into a multi-specialty hospital is disposed of.
A Division Bench comprising Justices D.Murugesan and P.P.S.Janarthana Raja passed the interim order on a writ petition by R.Veeramani, a city advocate. It directed the authorities to file their counter by February 10. The case has been posted for February 13.
The petitioner said the present government took a policy decision on August 19 last year to convert the new building into a multi-specialty hospital. This decision was irrational, “tainted with mala fides and is against public interest.”
The petitioner's senior counsel, P.Wilson, contended that environmental clearance given for the Assembly/ Secretariat complex could not be taken as clearance for conversion and housing a multi-specialty hospital.
The Bench noted that the PWD had issued the tender notice in two dailies for carrying out civil and electrical works.
Admittedly, as on date, no environmental clearance was obtained for the proposed modification in the new building. It was not in dispute that for a project exceeding 15,000 sq.metres, environmental clearance should be obtained from the Centre's Environment Impact Assessment Authority.
Though such clearance had been obtained before constructing the building, the fact remained that it was not obtained for the modification, the Bench said.
The court said the authorities' only contention was that the government was taking necessary action to get clearance before the building was put into use. The question as to whether the clearance was necessary prior to any modification/alteration or not should be gone into at the time of final disposal of the petition.
For the present, it was of the prima facie opinion that the environmental clearance given for constructing the building would not include clearance for any modification. If that be so, the structure constructed at a cost of Rs.551.80 crore could not be altered and any money spent on such modification would cause huge loss to the exchequer if the writ petitioner succeeds. In that view of the matter, it said the authorities should be restrained from altering or modifying or in any manner changing the structure till the petition was disposed of.
The Judges said their order would not stand in the way of the government obtaining environmental clearance and also taking other steps as per the policy decision.

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