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An NGO had filed a plea with the HC against the reclassification of Thamaraikkeni lake land from ‘waterbody’ to ‘institutional use zone’.

The police station built on the lake bed in Semmencherry, Chennai. File Image/TNM
news Encroachment Thursday, April 15, 2021 - 16:57

The Madras High Court on Thursday ordered that the police station allegedly constructed on Thamaraikkeni lake in Semmenchery shall not be put to use until further notification from the court. The order came on a petition filed by Chennai-based anti-corruption NGO Arappor Iyakkam. In 2019, Arappor Iyakkam filed a plea in the Madras High Court against the reclassification of Thamaraikkeni lake land from ‘waterbody’ to ‘institutional use zone’. The plea also sought the demolition of the police station, which was under construction on the lake in 2019.

On Thursday, the court ordered that the police station, said to be constructed on the lake, shall not be put to use until further orders, and that no more expenses shall be made on the police station. The court also has said that the station will have to be demolished if it is found to be constructed on a waterbody, and constituted a panel with two professors from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to look into the issue. The panel is expected to examine whether the land was a waterbody before, and recommend restoration measures for the waterbody after the station is demolished.

The petition was filed after an RTI response revealed that the Chennai Police had sought 0.6 acre or 25,833 square feet of area in the waterbody to construct a police station. In 2017, the Chennai Police had also applied for a reclassification of the land use category through the Greater Chennai Corporation, which was granted in 2019. However, this entire process of reclassification of water bodies is not allowed under Tamil Nadu Protection of Tanks and Eviction of Encroachment Act, 2007. In 2015, the Madras High Court had reiterated this in an order, which said: “The vesting of these lands and water bodies with the Government is to benefit the public and any attempt made by the Government to act in a manner derogatory to the object for which the land was vested, has to be held illegal... it is beyond the power of the State to alienate or reclassify the water bodies for some other purposes without compensating the effect of such water bodies.”

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