HC warns TN govt on kangaroo court issue

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Chennai: The Madras High Court today warned the Tamil Nadu government it will step in and issue guidelines unless it was informed about the proposed draft legislation to prevent ‘katta panchayats’ or kangaroo courts to be presented in the assembly is ready by next date of hearing.

The First Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sundar gave the warning while hearing a batch of PILs including that of an advocate K Gopal.

“We are constrained to draw the only conclusion that the state government does not seem to be interested in drawing up legislation on this important issue, though the Advocate General (AG) contends that the draft legislation will be ready in two months time.”

“We will have little option but to step in and issue guidelines in terms of the report of the amicus curiae to fill in the vacuum existing in this behalf so as to sub-serve the judicial system and prevent its subversion.”

“We propose to issue the necessary guidelines in this behalf on the next date of hearing unless we are informed that the draft legislation proposed to be introduced in the assembly to prevent katta panchayats is ready,” the judges said.

The matter has been pending since 2006.

Already several interim orders had been passed against katta panchayats by various benches. In continuation of this, the matter came up before court today.

In 2005, Gopal moved the high court to direct Inspector of Police at Thiruvottiyur to register his complaint and direct ‘Nalla Thannner odai Kuppam Meenavar Grama Sabha’ in the area to return Rs 40,000 collected illegally by such a court.

In 2006, the high court had treated as PIL a report in a leading Tamil daily, which said that four persons, including a woman, were isolated from a village by the katta panchayat and that she was fined Rs 500 for giving water to her son.

Then the bench perused a report filed by the court appointed amicus curiae and said his was that the appropriate remedy would be a legislation to deal with the aspect of katta panchayats.

“We are pained at the approach adopted by the state government in not doing anything about an issue like kattap panchayats, which seeks to subvert the judicial process and consequently, the Constitution of India. We have been receiving only assurances despite the ground work done by amicus curiae while submitting his report,” the bench said and posted the matter for further hearing to March 24.

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