CHENNAI: In a setback to the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu, the national Green Tribunal on Wednesday stayed all activities in the new assembly complex, built by the previous DMK government at a cost of Rs 500 crore, saying it started operating the medical referral unit before the green bench could hear and decide whether the modified structure meets the parameters required for a fresh environmental clearance for a hospital or not. The appeal for an environmental clearance will be heard on February 13, 2013. The new secretariat complex has been under the spotlight since the AIADMK came to power in May 2011 and decided to convert it into a multi-specialty hospital.

“When the appeal is only a week away, why are you in such a hurry to set up even a referral medical unit at this stage?” asked Justice M Chockalingam of the Advocate General A Navaneethakrishnan. He further reprimanded the government saying that when the validity of the environmental clearance obtained was under scrutiny, the government should not have even “touched” the building.

The Wednesday’s session was based on an application by a high court advocate, R Veeramani seeking an injunction in the wake of media reports that a referral unit of the government hospital was functioning in the new assembly complex. Veeramani had earlier filed a writ petition with the high court pointing out that the environmental clearance for the building was given in 2006 for construction of an assembly complex. In order to convert it into a hospital, the government needed to seek fresh clearance.

A fresh clearance was given by the State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) for conversion into a hospital. However, the petition further pointed out that the SEIAA did not have the authority to give a fresh environmental clearance while the previous clearance for building a secretariat complex still remained valid. Only the centre had the power to do that, the petition said.