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“Earth Is Common for All Creatures and One Should Not Encroach Upon the Other’s Space”: Madras High Court

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On 30.04.2021, the Madras High Court heard the matter concerning the question of whether the notices of the authorities seeking to suspend the brick-kiln operations of the petitioners in the spath of the wild tuskers are sustainable in the eye of law. The Writ Petitions were heard and disposed of by a common order. 

Petitioner’s Submission

The learned counsel of the petitioner submitted that the passing of the impugned order in extension to the prayer made in W.P.No.27356 of 2019 to secure the elephant corridors and to illegal brick kilns operating in Tadagam Valley of Coimbatore is a colourable exercise of power without any authority. Further, it was submitted that the impugned order was passed by Revenue Tahsildar. However, it was pointed out that such an order can only be passed by the District Collector, after following the mandatory procedures contemplated under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and the Tamil Nadu Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 1959. As a result, it was uniformly submitted that the passing of the impugned order is a violation of the principal of natural justice. 

Additionally, it was submitted that the petitioners have submitted the fees for the renewal of licenses and they are manufacturing bricks with the consent of owners and it is due to the failure of officials that the petitioners have become “scape-goats”. It was further submitted that the impugned order to close down all the brick-kilns is in violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

Grounds Of Challenge

The learned Additional Advocate General challenged the petition by asserting that there is no illegality in the passing of the impugned order as it was passed by the Task Force Committee. Besides, it was submitted that the fees by the petitioners are through online remittances and the same would not confer any rights on the petitioners to run the brick kilns without any valid license. It was also highlighted that the authorities have issued various orders and notices to stop the manufacturing activity since 2019. 

Amongst this, the learned counsel for the Coimbatore District Irulasamuga Nala Sangam contended that the area in which brick kilns are functioning is an environmentally sensitive area as there is a reservoir collecting water from many streams in that area. It was submitted that the ecosystem and biodiversity are a threat. The cause of animals and their untimely death at the hands of the brick kiln businessmen was also submitted. 

Petitioner’s Prayer

The petitioners prayed for a Writ of Certiorari filed Mandamus calling for the records relating to the impugned Notice of the respondents dated 19.03.2021 and quash the same. 

Court’s Observation

The single-judge bench of the Madras High Court observed that the elephant is the “National Heritage Animal” and quoted John Donne, “Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant – the only harmless great thing”. It considered the legal position of the case by Rule 19, 19(2), 36 and 42 of the TNMMC Rules. The court referred to the affidavit submitted by the District Collector and stated that the District Collector cannot delegate such powers on his own. 

Additionally, it observed that the authorities have turned “ a deaf ear and blind eye to these illegal activities” without taking any appropriate decisions about the same. The court also mentioned the importance of all creatures in the food cycle and balancing the ecology. It was observed that the authorities should work more efficiently and effectively. Alongside, the court observed that it is not convinced to accept any of the explanations offered by the petitioners in this regard. Further, the court observed that Tahsildar has no jurisdiction to have passed the impugned orders. 

Court’s Decision 

The court decided that the impugned order needed interference by the court and only the competent authority (District Collector) should pass any order in the issue involved. The order should be made within four weeks of the copy of the order. Further, the impugned orders would be treated as notices to the petitioners for appearing before the District Collector. No separate notice in this regard will be issued to the petitioners. The court made it clear that there would be no extension of time. 

Then, the court held that it is open to the respondents to take any action against the brick kilns, including the petitioners if it is found that the same has been operated without any license in the manner known to law. And,  the owners of the brick kilns can run the show, if they possess a valid license and other documents to do so. is now on Telegram. Follow us for regular legal updates and judgment from courts. Follow us on Google News, InstagramLinkedInFacebook & Twitter. You can subscribe to our Weekly Email Updates. You can also contribute stories like this and help us spread awareness for a better society. Submit Your Post Now.

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