CHENNAI: The Madras High Court, on Tuesday, restrained the State Government from reopening or relocating any Tasmac outlet on the National and State Highways, proposed to be re-classified and brought under the purview of respective corporations and municipalities.
Giving a new twist to the raging issue, the first bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar granted the injunction while passing interim orders on two public interest writ petitions – from R S Bharathi, the organising secretary of the DMK and the party’s Rajya Sabha member and advocate K Balu, president of the Advocates’ Forum for Social Justice.
“It is well settled that the State cannot exercise executive powers citing administrative needs to render a judicial order of the Supreme Court ineffective. Judicial decisions certainly cannot be frustrated by an executive order. Therefore, there will be an order of injunction restraining the State from setting up and or opening and or re-locating any liquor shop along any National Highway or State Highway running through the State or within a distance there from, as prohibited by the SC. The interim order shall remain in force for a period of 3 months or until further orders, whichever is earlier,” the bench said, posting the matter to July 10.
The forum was one of the petitioners to move to the SC first and obtain orders on December 15, 2016 and March 31, 2017, directing the State governments to remove all the liquor shops and bars situated on National and State Highways and within 500 metres therefrom.
They sought to quash an order dated April 21 last of the Commissioner of Municipal Administration sent to all Commissioners of Municipal Corporations and Municipalities and consequently to forbear the government from in any manner converting the roads under NHAI, National Highways (NH), State Highways, District Main Roads, Panchayat Roads and other Roads of the District to any other classification under the control or maintenance of any local bodies such as Corporations, Municipalities, with an intention to nullify the orders.
Earlier, Bharathi’s senior counsel P Wilson told the bench that the State was attempting to circumvent the SC judgment, which cannot be done so even by Legislature. Wilson added that any action of the government to nullify the SC orders will run against Article 144 of the Indian Constitution.
Advocate-General R Muthukumaraswamy defended the State government’s move pointing out when the Punjab government wanted to change the nomenclature of the roads, the High Court had upheld its decision.
Strangely, the Municipal Administration Commissioner traced a report issued on November 11, 2016, wherein the difficulties in obtaining No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from national highways for infrastructure were cited and to cut project escalation, it had suggested to the State government to bring the stretches of highways which pass through Corporations and Municipalities under the direct control of the urban local bodies concerned.
Giving resurrection to this report, the Commissioner on April 21 last issued the impugned order directing all the Corporations and Municipalities to adopt resolutions by April 25, to bring such stretches of highways passing through their respective territories under the direct control of the urban local bodies, he said.