The Madras High Court on Friday ordered the Tamil Nadu government to identify and remove the statues in public places and highways across the state within three months.
“Common people are witnessing riots, law and order issues in the name of statue of the leaders across Tamil Nadu on many occasions and frequently. It is the duty of the government to ensure that such peaceful living of the common man is not being affected at any circumstances because of such celebrations of the political parties, communal, religious, linguistic, regional and sectional groups or other groups," said Madras High Court Justice Subramaniam while passing an order on a plea moved by Veeraraghavan challenging the notice issued by Tahsildar of Arakonam Taluk in Vellore district to remove an Ambedkar statue erected on a ‘meikal poramboke’ without permission.
Earlier, a resolution was passed in the panchayat to install a statue of Ambedkar in the Konur Kandikai village of Arakonam Taluk. Later, however, Tahsildar had issued an order to remove the statue alleging it was placed without permission. Following this, a petition has been filed in the Madras High Court challenging the order.
Eventually, the case came up for hearing before Justice SM Subramaniam. At the time, the government said there was nothing wrong with removing the statue as the Supreme Court and the High Court had ordered that the statues should not be placed on highways. Meanwhile, the judge claimed that it was necessary to follow the rules of law and the judgments of the SC and also ordered the state government to identify and remove the statues in public places, highways, government lands and meikal poramboke across Tamil Nadu within three months. He also directed the government to lay down detailed rules for granting permission to erect statues and structures without compromising the rights of the public.
The judge also ordered to set up ‘Leaders’ Park’ in Tamil Nadu and that the statues of the leaders taken from the public places be kept in the park and that the cost of maintaining the statues be charged to those who are allowed to place the statue. He ordered the Tamil Nadu government to file a report within six months regarding the implementation of these orders, ordering that legal action be taken to recover the amount from those who did not pay the maintenance amount of the statues.
Noting that the statues were attacked and the law and order situation is affected, the judge said, “The public would be affected by the events that take place during the leaders’ birthday and anniversary".
Furthermore, he added that it was their choice to erect the statue in private places and later blame the tense situation in some places for not implementing the Supreme Court judgment effectively. Subsequently, the judge also directed the state government to take steps to prevent years of caste clashes for the welfare of people.
Speaking to News18, Jayaram of Arappor Iyakkam, an NGO in Chennai said, “There will be a huge practical issue in relocating the statues to one place. One thing that would work effectively is passing an order of banning new statues in public places across the State or passing an order to erect the new statues only in the special parks in future. Secondly, statues create severe traffic problems on roads. So, identifying the peak spots and relocating only those statues would practically work. These two scenarios are possible to unblock the movement of the public. On one side, the court’s order also involves people and their sentiments towards their leaders and most of the statues in our state are ‘age-old’ statues. Thus, a question of ‘practical possibility’ arises. Another side, encroachments are also happening in the state," he said.
“On the whole, there is a much needed full stop for the statues in Tamil Nadu. Because, if the roads are blocked even more in the name of erecting statues, it creates huge traffic hindrance to the public. So, a few decades ago people witnessed lesser traffic. But, today Tamil Nadu is a 50 per cent urbanised State and traffic created because of statues is rising every day. Moreover, not all statues in Tamil Nadu are creating traffic hindrance on roads.
For example, the Kannagi statue in Chennai Marina Beach does not create a traffic hindrance. Because that was erect aside the road. Most importantly, the government really have to identify the peak spots where the statues are erected at the junction, those statues have to be relocated. This would bring a practical solution for the public.
Ironically, even those leaders in the statues would not wish to be a hindrance to the public in any form," Jayaram added.
Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that recently, the DMK government nod for a 135-foot statue of Periyar in the Trichy district.
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