Madras HC restrains govt. from felling trees for medical college hospital in Nilgiris

The Madras High Court has restrained the State government and Nilgiris district administration from felling fully grown trees for the ongoing construction of a government medical college hospital in the hill station on lands that were once given on lease to Hindustan Photo Films Manufacturing Company (HPFMC).

A Division Bench of Justices M.M. Sundresh and R. Hemalatha passed the interim order on a public interest litigation petition filed by advocate V. Ramesh. The judges asked Advocate General (A-G) Vijay Narayan to explore possibility of using the existing buildings of HPFMC for some allied requirements of the hospital.

They said that even if the existing buildings of the company could not be converted into a hospital, as prayed for by the petitioner in the present litigation, they could be used as staff quarters for the employees of the hospital or for other uses such as a laboratory. They wanted to know the government’s decision by next month.

However, Additional Solicitor General R. Shankaranarayanan brought it to the notice of the court that HPFMC, a central public sector enterprise, could not be termed as defunct. He said the company had only stopped operations since 2003 and that winding up proceedings were still pending before the Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR).

He said HPFMC had recently filed a writ petition before a single judge of the High Court against resumption of 292.71 acres of land by the Nilgiris Collector without the approval of the Union Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises and that notices had been ordered to the State government and the Collector on that petition.

On the other hand, the A-G informed the court that the government medical college was being built only on 25 out of nearly 300 acres that had been resumed from HPFMC. He said the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had approved the construction, which had already commenced and was now going on in full swing.

He also said that it would not be possible to utilise the existing buildings of HPFMC for the hospital since they would not conform to latest norms for construction of a hospital. After hearing all of them, the judge made it clear that the government could go ahead with the construction but ordered that the fully grown trees alone need not be disturbed.

The interim order was passed since Mr. Ramesh insisted upon preserving the environment in the hill station.

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