The Madras High Court, on August 30, 2018, directed the Chennai Corporation to transfer all officials serving in its Vigilance Cell within four weeks and appoint new officials, after pulling up the civic body for ‘rampant corruption’. Justice SM Subramaniam gave the direction, after perusing the report filed by the Corporation Commissioner, on the action taken against building violations in the city and to curb corruption. He posted the matter for compliance after 12 weeks.
The report was submitted, in compliance with the August 14 interim order of the High Court, on a petition by H Lakshmi, seeking removal of an encroachment on her property in Chennai. The court had made strong observations over ‘rampant’ corruption in the city corporation and said the public were unable to get any document, without bribing officials. The judge said, “With pain, this court would like to place on record that none of the procedures or the actions are unable to control and minimise the corrupt activities in the Corporation.”
Finding fault with the civic officials for not implementing the plan approvals granted by them, the judge said, “This court is of a strong opinion that none of these plan approvals are neither followed, nor implemented by the Corporation officials.” He sought to know how, in spite of frequent inspections conducted by the Corporation officials including zonal officers, it was possible to construct a large number of ‘buildings with gross violations’. The local politicians also involve themselves in such activities, in collusion with the officials of the corporation, the judge noted.
Expressing surprise as to how such activities were not brought to the knowledge of the commissioner by the competent authorities, the judge said, “This court cannot come to a conclusion that the commissioner of the corporation is ignorant of all such illegalities and irregularities.” The court cannot consciously hold that the commissioner is an innocent person, having no knowledge about all these illegalities in the corporation, he added.
Posing a series of questions to the Corporation’s commissioner, which included why he was inactive in respect of such illegalities and irregularities and ‘if he was handcuffed by some other higher officials’, the judge said, “All these questions are to be answered by commissioner.”
The judge also ordered setting up of ‘Vigilance Booths’ in all corporation offices, within a period of four weeks, to enable the common man to submit complaints with respect to illegalities, irregularities and corrupt activities in the civic body.