Standing, Wetlands, Inspections, Permits, Property, Jurisdiction, Forests, Civil
The Gangaiamman temple tank was surrendered by the Panchayat and the Kancheepuram District Collectorate to the Highways Department in order to build a shopping complex. These shops would be given to traders who had to give up their land for the I.T. corridor project, for resettlement of those persons who were displaced due to expansion of highway project. A Government order was issued to this effect. A local ward councillor of Thoraipakkam filed a petition in the High Court challenging the proposed takeover. In the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of respondents, the Highways Department said that the tank was an abandoned one being used as a dumping yard and a sewage collection pond. By an order dated 06.12.2005, the High Court, having regard to the stand taken by the Respondents herein in their counter affidavit, appointed the Director, Centre for Water Resources, Guindy, Chennai, as the Commissioner to inspect the tank land and submit a report. Relying on the said report, a Division Bench of the Madras High Court by reason of the impugned order dismissed the writ petition. The petition filed before the court raised the concern that village ponds adjoining highways were being preyed upon by powerful builders who got considerable financial returns by filling up these water bodies and constructing housing and shopping complexes over them. It contented that keeping in view water shortage faced by public in general High Court committed manifest error in permitting construction of shopping complex on water body. The Kerala government and the village panchayat categorically denied and disputed that there is any water shortage in village. The village is situated on both sides of national highway and is situated near sea and having five water tanks in or around therein. They showed that the pond has no natural source of water and that the tank in question is not natural tank as only rain water could be collected in it and it has been a dumping ground for long time. The Supreme Court considered that High Court took into consideration all relevant factors. Indisputably the tank in question is in dilapidated condition for long time and has been used as dumping yard and sewage collection pond, its resurrection cannot be directed. Moreover the bench clarified that artificial tanks fall in a separate category and cannot be equated with natural water bodies. Therefore, it did not grant relief to petitioner Susetha who challenged the decision of the Okkiam Thoraipakkam Panchayat Union to allow the construction of a shopping complex on the abandoned village tank. Nevertheless, the Supreme court has declared that protection of natural lakes and ponds is akin to honouring the most basic fundamental right—the right to life which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution and recognised that natural water storage resources are not only required to be protected but also steps are required to be taken for restoring the same if it has fallen in disuse. The court also noted the duty cast on the government under Articles 47 and 48A of the Constitution to protect the environment as well as improve the standards of living. Therefore State and Gram Panchayat are directed to see that other tanks in or around village are properly maintained and necessary steps are taken so that there is no water shortage and ecology preserved.