Quarry shut after collector's sign on lease document found forged in Thoothukudi

Sakthivel's counsel, advocate Pooselvan, said the stone quarry had operated for nearly 10 months in violation of the stipulated norms.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

THOOTHUKUDI: The Tirunelveli district registrar has cancelled the lease document of a stone quarry operating at Sathankulam in Thoothukudi after a probe recently revealed that the lessee identified as SK Franklin allegedly forged the signatures of Thoothukudi collector and Assistant Director of Mines on the quarry documents. TNIE has accessed both the original and the forged documents, and also the cancellation order.

According to sources, Thoothukudi collector Dr K Senthil Raj had granted Franklin a sanction for mining rough stone and gravel from 2.55 hectares in Meerankulam village near Sathankulam taluk over a period between November 12, 2021, and November 11, 2026. As per the approved mining plan, the lessee can quarry rough stone and gravel up to the limit of 3,57,700 CBM (cubic metre) and 60,120 CBM respectively. The lease document, which is an agreement inked between the lessee and the collector, comprised 35 conditions and land details, and was registered at Radhapuram sub-registrar office after obtaining the no-objection certificate from the Srivaikuntam sub-registrar, said sources.

Meanwhile, Sakthivel, a farmer from Meerankulam, lodged a complaint with the collector claiming that his agricultural field sustained damages owing to violations in the functioning of the stone quarry. He also alleged that the lease agreement uploaded on the land registration department website, comprised records of land parcels falling in the Tirunelveli district undersigned by the Thoothukudi collector.

Sakthivel's counsel, advocate Pooselvan, said the stone quarry had operated for nearly 10 months in violation of the stipulated norms. Sources said the land records Franklin had included in the lease deed were related to the Industrial Mineral Company (IMC) of Thisayanvilai taluk of Tirunelveli district, and that the land parcels were in no way associated with the lessee.

Following an inquiry, collector Senthil Raj informed the Radhapuram sub-registrar in a letter that Franklin's quarry had endangered nearby agricultural fields by functioning in violation of stipulated norms, and registering the document at Radhapuram instead of the Srivaikuntam sub-registrar office. "Moreover, page 10 of the agreement has been manipulated craftily by including an area spread over 0.40.48 hectares (approx 1 acre) lying adjacent to Irukkanthurai part-2 village in Tirunelveli district, in addition to the approved survey numbers of Meerankulam-2 village. Also, the suspect forged signatures of the District Collector, Assistant Geologist/Assistant Director (i/c) and Special Revenue Inspector of Thoothukudi district on page 10," the collector added and recommended cancellation of the lease deed.

"In the original copy of the lease deed available with the Thoothukudi district administration, page 10 contains only the schedule of Meerankulam 2 village," said a top official. Based on the recommendations of the Thoothukudi collector, the Tirunelveli registrar cancelled Franklin's lease documents under section 77(A) of the Registration Act. A senior official has confirmed that the stone quarry operations have been suspended following the cancellation of the lease document.

When contacted, Thoothukudi Assistant Director (Mines) Dr Suhatha Rahima told TNIE that she is not the authorised person to comment on the issue. However, a complaint has been registered to Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police L Balaji Saravanan seeking criminal action against the suspect for forging the collector's and other officials' signatures.

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