The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a Madras High Court 2011 order which directed the demolition of all resorts and construction in the Mudumalai reserve forest area in the Nilgiris district. Veteran Bollywood star and former Rajya Sabha MP Mithun Chakraborty owns one of the resorts there.
The order by the top court bench also upheld the declaration made by the Madras High Court that the Tamil Nadu government was fully empowered to notify the area as elephant corridor.
A three-member committee, which will be headed by a retired HC judge, will now listen to the objections being raised by the resort owners. Mithun is among owners of 32 private lands and resorts who had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the High Court’s 2011 decision.
In its hearing in the case in January this year, the Supreme Court had said that the elephant is a big and powerful animal but it is fragile too. “We are dealing with fragile eco-system,” the SC had said.
The Supreme Court had issued an order in August last year to seal the resorts in the Nilgiris after the district collector submitted a report on illegal construction activities carried out in the sensitive elephant corridor. The court had asked the collector to check documents of the resorts in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) buffer zone and seal them if they are found lacking.
The 2011 Madras High Court ruling came after a petition was filed by A Rangarajan in 1996. In 2007-2008, two public interest litigations (PIL) were filed in the case by ‘Elephant’ Rajendran and the NGO Nilgiris Wildlife Protection.
Veteran actor Mithun Chakraborty, best known for Disco Dancer, had filed a plea opposing the order in Supreme Court. In his plea in the Supreme Court, he had said that his resort is a part of the eco-tourism in the locality and is a source of employment to the tribal people who reside nearby.