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SC refuses to step into Tamil Nadu secretariat row

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today declined to interfere with a plea pending at the Madras High Court and seeking to restrain the Tamil Nadu Government from shifting the State secretariat building at Omandurar Government Estate in Chennai to erstwhile Fort St George on coast.

"How can we issue a writ of prohibition to the high court? You can agitate your issue before the high court. You can raise your plea before the high court," a vacation bench of justices H L Gokhale and Ranjana Prakash Desai observed, while refusing to entertain the plea, filed by one J Ramesh.

Counsel M Purushothaman and Vikram Patralekh contended that the petition filed by DMK leader Veeramani in the high court to restrain the AIADMK government from shifting the secretariat building was an abuse of the legal process and barred by the principles of "res judicata" as two similar petitions on the same issue were dismissed.

The high court had earlier dismissed the two petitions on the ground that the matter related to the policy decision of the government which the courts normally should not interfere with, the petition to the apex court stated. Under the principles of "res judicata", aimed at giving finality to an issue, the courts are barred from hearing the same matter once a judgement has been given on it.

The petition said though the high court had dismissed two earlier petitions on the controversy, it had now entertained another PIL filed by Veeramani on the same issue with slight modifications of the pleadings. The Jayalalithaa government had recently decided to shift the secretariat to the Fort St George and convert the new building constructed by the previous DMK Government into a multi-speciality hospital-cum-medical college.

"The Honourable High Court is abused as a forum for the political bickering being played over the issue of the ill-conceived secretariat building built in the heart of a chaotic metropolitan city of Chennai that is already chocking due to the explosive growth," the petition claimed. On June 15, 2011, the high court had dismissed the first petition with the observation that "it is for the Government to decide as to which building shall be comfortable for the purpose of establishing the State Secretariat.

"If the Government takes a policy decision to run the Secretariat from the old building, this Court cannot issue a direction to the Government to change their decision." On September 9, 2011, the high court had dismissed the second PIL on the issue holding "in our opinion, such a positive direction cannot be issued except directing the respondents 1 to 3 (State government ) to look into the representation made by the petitioner."

Thereafter, on December 15, 2011, another PIL was filed in the high court by Veeramani seeking "a Writ of Declaration declaring that the policy decision to convert, the New Legislative Assembly-cum-Secretariat Complex at Omanthurar Estate, comprising Block 59, Triplicane Village in S. No.

3171/7, 3171/A, 3171/B into a multi super Speciality Hospital cum Medical College purpose as unconstitutional, arbitrary, illegal, whimsical, capricious, irrational and violative of environmental laws and consequently to set aside the same." The petitioner said the forum of the high court was being abused for political bickering over the issue of the ill-conceived Secretariat Building built in the heart of a chaotic metropolitan city of Chennai that is already chocking due to the explosive growth.

"If at all the petitioners, were aggrieved by the earlier orders of the high court, they ought to have moved this court (apex court) in a manner known to law and not before the same division bench again and again in the garb of verbatim PILs with slight modifications which are clearly apparent by a bare perusal of the repeated petitions," the petition said. But the argument failed to convince the apex court which declined to interfere in the matter.

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