The Madras High Court on Tuesday, April 18, 2023 warned fishermen families against indulging in protests such as blocking of vehicular traffic in protest against an order passed by it last week to evict the fish vendors who had encroached upon the carriageway on the Loop Road of Marina beach in Chennai.
Justices S.S. Sundar and P.B. Balaji told Additional Advocate General J. Ravindran that judges, who commute through the road regularly to reach the High Court on a daily basis, and other motorists had not been allowed to use the Loop Road ever since the eviction order was passed on April 11.
“After our interim order, we are unable to use the road. We strongly condemn everyone who feel that they can show their strength to the court. People must know that they cannot take law into their hands. We cannot tolerate this kind of behaviour,” the senior judge in the Division Bench told the AAG.
Mr. Ravindran told the court that the Greater Chennai Corporation had implemented the court order despite severe resistance from the fishermen. He said, the corporation wants to relocate the vendors peacefully to a fish market under construction and not indulge in any forceful eviction.
Till such relocation, the vendors would be regulated and it would be ensured that they do not pose any hindrance to vehicular traffic on the Loop Road, the AAG assured the court. After hearing him, the Division Bench decided to pass further interim orders in the case on Wednesday.
Earlier, when the judges highlighted that numerous illegal eateries too had cropped up on the Loop Road pavement, the AAG said, the Corporation had issued notices to those eateries and that they remain closed at present. The closure of the eateries would reduce the number of motor vehicles parked on the road, he added.
When a counsel representing a fishermen representative read out an order passed by the National Green Tribunal in 2015 permitting GCC to relay the Loop Road, the judges said, there was not even a single sentence in that order about any traditional right enjoyed by the fishermen to squat over a public road.
“It is the obligation of the Corporation to keep all public roads free of encroachments. The fishermen cannot seek a right to encroach such roads. Some vested interests appear to be misleading the fishermen. If we allow fish stalls on both sides of the road, do you expect motorists to fly over the road,” Justice Sundar asked.
Further, wondering whether the counsel, representing the fishermen, had ever visited the illegal eateries on the Loop Road, the judge said: “We will sponsor your dinner today. You go there and see how the sea food is being cooked unhygienically right on the pavement. The dining area is also on the pavement and yet food is sold at high prices.”
Agreeing to hear all stakeholders before passing final orders in the case and that any individual or fishermen association could get impleaded in the suo motu writ petition taken up by the court to free the Loop Road, the judges said, they could show some indulgence if the fish vendors could regulate themselves until the construction of the fish market.