CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has ordered the government to take immediate action to close down all illegal aquaculture farms across the state within six weeks.
Justice SM Subramaniam passed the orders on Monday on two writ petitions filed by Purushothaman and Ilayaraja of Tiruvallur district challenging the closure notice issued to their farms.
“In the present case, the petitioners are running aquaculture farms without any permission. Therefore, immediate actions are warranted in respect of all illegal farms across the state. The respondents are directed to immediately take action to close down all illegal farms and prosecute the offenders in the manner contemplated under Section 14 of the Coastal Aquaculture Authorities Act, 2005,” the judge ordered.
Citing punishment of up to three years for violating the Act in carrying out aquaculture farming, the judge directed the authorities concerned to register complaints in respect of all such illegal farms in the state and prosecute the offenders. This exercise is directed to be completed within six weeks.
In his submission, P Kumaresan, Additional Advocate General, informed the court that 2,709 aquaculture farms are functioning in the State. Out of these, 2,227 are registered; 348 applications for permissions are under consideration and 134 are identified as illegal and action is initiated pursuant to the directions issued by the National Green Tribunal, Southern Zone.
The petitioners approached the court seeking to quash the order of the assistant director of Fisheries Department dated October 11, 2018 to close down the prawn culture units they were running.
Their counsel contended that the department lacked jurisdiction and according to the Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act, the department could regulate only farms which were located within the coastal regulation zone, and not the petitioners’ farms located on their private land falling beyond the CRZ.
The court, however, noted that under section 2 (d) of the Act, aquaculture activities must be carried out within a distance of two kilometre from the high tide line of sea, rivers, creeks and backwaters. Any aquaculture activity beyond the 2-km distance is illegal.
High court rejects pleas filed by two farms
Passing orders on writ pleas filed by two farms, the court said the units lacked the required permission and have to be shut. The judge also ordered similar action against all illegal farms.