The Madras High Court has directed the Thanjavur district authorities to conduct a public hearing at Vadaseri or any other location, "free of intimidation", with regard to setting up of a distillery unit proposed by a company belonging to a former Union Minister's son.
A Division Bench, comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and K K Sasidharan, issued the direction on a petition seekng a
direction to the Thanjavur District Collector to reconvene the public hearing at Vadaseri and then reserved their orders.
The petitioner, Vadaseri Grama Vivasayigal Sangam (farmers association), represented by its President G Krishnamurthy,
submitted that Kings India Chemicals Corporation Ltd had decided to set up a distillery in the village.
After the panchayat President had declared that the No Objection Certificate was issued on July 13,2009, several
representations were made to the association and district authorities on the repercussions of having the unit in
the village, the association said.
Claiming that the factory would extract most of the ground water, the association claimed it would seriously affect the
environment and agricultural operations.
After considering objections by panchayat members and the association, the panchayat President recognised the unanimous
views of the villagers opposing the establishment of the distillery.However, contrary to public expectations, no action
was initiated to convene a meeting for withdrawing the NOC.
This was apparently due to the fact that the company was owned by the son of former Union Minister T R Baalu, the
petition alleged adding the association and village had objected to conducting the hearing in the Kings India
Chemicals Corporation Ltd's factory premises apprehending a law and order problem.
Despite the objection the hearing was held in the factory premises and villagers could not enter the venue before the
hearing commenced. There was a lathi-charge targeting the villagers who were at the forefront of the anti-unit protest,
the association claimed adding the public hearing was declared closed within 10 minutes.
A FIR was registered against the Vadaseri villagers and arrests were made. The public hearing was a farce and non-est in law and hence it had become necessary to seek appropriate court orders to reconvene the public hearing, the association said.