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Chettinad Vidhyashram told to share details of new buildings with parents

By S. Vijay Kumar

:

The Tamil Nadu Information Commission has directed the Principal, Chettinad Vidhyashram, here, to share details of the problems caused by the ongoing construction activities on the school premises with the parents and students.

Pointing to some lapses, the Commission directed the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) to explain why a cost of ₹ 79.08 lakh should not be imposed on it.

Passing the orders on a petition filed under the Right to Information Act, 2005, by some alumnus of Raja Muthiah High School, that the space allotted for the school was being used for another purpose and they were denied details when sought under the Act, State Information Commissioner S. Muthuraj directed the school authorities to share information on the dust and air pollution caused due the construction of high-rise buildings in Chettinad House, where the school was located. 

Referring to details available on the CMDA’s website, he said the approval was given for the proposed construction of a high-rise building comprising 14 floors for commercial purposes such as shops, hotel and so on in front of the arch of the Chettinad House. Since the huge building would emit a huge quantity of heat due to the air conditioning facility, the Principal was told to explain the possible impact of the heat on the students.

“As it is, this heat will attack the school students and cause them great harm. So, Principal of Chettinad Vidhyashram and Vidhyalaya Schools are ordered to provide this information to the parents of the students. Let the parents decide if the students should continue in the school,” Mr. Muthuraj wrote in his order.

The RTI petitioners submitted that their school located at Raja Annamalaipuram came under the Gandhi Nagar Educational Society, Chennai, and was inaugurated on June 9, 1957 by the former Chief Minister, K. Kamarajar.

Raja Annamalai Chettiar and M.A. Muthiah Chettiar resided in the Chettinad House in which the administration of the Gandhi Nagar Education Society was established.

Deliberating on the preservation of heritage buildings in Chennai, Mr. Muthuraj referred to the Tamil Nadu Heritage Commission Act, 2012 (Tamil Nadu Act 24 of 2012), that was enacted to protect the buildings or premises not covered under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (Central Act 24 of 1958), and the Tamil Nadu Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1966 (Tamil Nadu Act 25 of 1966). 

Mr. Muthuraj said the Chettinad Vidhyashram and Chettinad Vidhyalaya Schools were functioning with 7,908 students inside Chettinad House, the heritage building and entrance arch of which must be preserved. A public authority should consider all relevant factors prior to giving permission to any application received and must consider the obstacles or hurdles that would arise if the permission was granted and whether it would violate any rules or regulations. 

In the present case, permission was granted to build a hotel and rooms which implied that the building would be eligible to get a bar licence. As per Prohibition and Excise Act and Tamil Nadu Liquor (Licence and Permit Rules, 1981), the Government of Tamil Nadu has banned the sale of liquor or any other tobacco products near schools. 

Directing the CMDA to share details of the construction activity with the legal heirs and the organisations in which Raja Muthiah Chettiar and M.A. Muthiah Chettiar served, the Commission made a mention of the family’s contribution to society. 

Erecting a display board explaining details of the construction should have been mandatory while giving permission to the proposed building. In the present case, it was evident that no such display board was found in place which is a clear violation of the rules. “This violation has substantially affected the petitioners, students and parents of the students studying in these schools…The CMDA after issuing plan permission must have ensure that the display board is to be displayed in the site,” he said.

The Commission directed the Member Secretary, CMDA, to explain why ₹1,000 to each student amounting to ₹79,08,000 should not be imposed as cost for denying the information.

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