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HC directs state govt to compensate village panchayat

Chennai: Not satisfied with the punishment by Additional Chief Secretary of the Industries Department against erring officials in the matter of excess quarrying by a licensee, the Madras High Court today directed the state government to pay the compensation to the village panchayat concerned.

The First Bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice T S Sivagnanam, before which an action taken report was filed by the official, observed, “The punishments imposed are minor and charge memo itself in respect of others prescribed for minor procedures. Thus in a matter of such serious nature, persons are permitted to be let off. What signal it sends is obvious!

“We may note that as far as the compensation aspect is concerned, the appeals by the affected parties are stated to be pending which should be considered as expeditiously as possible. We further direct that whatever the penalty/compensation is determined, 50 per cent of the same shall be handed over to the village panchayat for losses suffered by the residents to be utilized for their benefit.”

The matter relates to a PIL filed by one Ethirajammal of Ganapathipuram village of Arkonam Taluk in Vellore District, alleging that K Mani, who was granted licence for quarrying earth in the village, contravened the terms of the licence and carried out excessive quarrying.

The court had earlier directed the District Collector, Vellore to take stern action.

Besides recovery of penalty and payment of compensation to the villagers, the court had directed to initiate appropriate disciplinary proceedings, find the negligent/ colluding officers and impose appropriate punishment for what happened at the quarrying site.

The Additional Secretary of the Industries Department filed the action taken report in which it was mentioned that disciplinary action had been taken against several officials who were involved in excess quarrying by the licensee.