It had ordered constitution of a force headed by an Additional Chief Secretary in April 2019
The Madras High Court has warned Tamil Nadu government of contempt of court proceedings if it had not complied with an April 2019 directive to constitute a Special Task Force, headed by an officer in the rank of Additional Chief Secretary, for conducting periodical inspections, field survey and removal of encroachments from government lands.
A Division Bench of Justices S. Vaidyanathan and A.A. Nakkiran recalled that another Bench led by Justice M. Venugopal (since retired) had on April 29, 2019 ordered that the STF should be constituted permanently and that it should be headed by an “efficient, devoted and honest” official who could crack down on large scale encroachments.
“It is not known as to whether such a force has been constituted for the said purpose,” the Bench led by Justice Vaidyanathan said and warned that the court would pass stringent orders if any wilful and deliberate disobedience was noticed. It also made it clear that the court would not hesitate to order imprisonment of the officials concerned for their lapses.
The warning was issued while disposing of a writ petition on an alleged illegal construction at Marshalls Road in Egmore. Passing orders, the Bench recalled the 2019 order which had not only conceived the constitution of a permanent STF, similar to the one in Karnataka, but also listed out its probable functions.
Then, the court had ordered that the Revenue Secretary, Highways Secretary, Public Works Department Secretary, Commissioner of Land Administration, Commissioner of Survey, Tangedco chairperson and a host of others should be the members of the STF. The goverment was directed to issue executive instructions constituting the force within three months.
On such constitution, the chairman of the STF was ordered to convene monthly meetings with its members to review the progress made in removal of encroachments. After eviction, the government was directed to install boards with Quick Response (QR) codes so that any person could access details about the land and prevent encroachments in future.
The STF was also directed to strictly follow the ‘Guidelines on Urban Drainage’ issued by the Indian Roads Congress. It was also made mandatory for the STF to report progress every month to the Chief Secretary who, in turn, was ordered to forward the reports to the Registrar General of the High Court.
Further, the court had ordered that the STF should be assigned a separate helpline number for receiving complaints regarding encroachment of government lands.