25 July 2022 5:03 PM GMT
"It is primarily the task of the Government to govern and in the guise of judicial review, Courts should not seek to run the governments," the Karnataka High Court has observed. A division bench comprising of Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice P Krishna Bhat added that when a measure taken by the Government is for implementing a Mega Infrastructural Project pursuant to a policy framed...
"It is primarily the task of the Government to govern and in the guise of judicial review, Courts should not seek to run the governments," the Karnataka High Court has observed.
A division bench comprising of Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice P Krishna Bhat added that when a measure taken by the Government is for implementing a Mega Infrastructural Project pursuant to a policy framed embedded with the opinion of experts, Court should refrain from acting like a "super-accountant and interference with the same should be extremely rare where it is inevitable."
"Smelling foul-play in the action of the government at a mere whiff of suggestion would make running the administration an impossibility and elected governments which are accountable to the people will be hamstrung in implementing projects for promoting public weal. Where two options are possible, it is not for the Court to act as an expert and substitute its own view for the view of the executive," the Court added.
The Bench was further of the view that in matters of such nature, Courts do not have the expertise nor the political mandate for deciding the comparative merits of two options.
The Court was dealing with a bunch of pleas challenging the acquisition of their lands in Muchakandi and Bagalakote villages of Bagalakote District under two notifications issued by the State authorities.
The challenge was originally dismissed by the Single Judge in December last year. The said judgment was challenged before the division bench.
The facts of the case are that under the impugned notifications, about 1275 acres of lands were acquired in Muchakandi & Bagalakote villages of Bagalkot District for the purpose of implementing Unit-III of Upper Krishna Project.
It was thus stated that ever since 1985, lands were being acquired for implementing the project which was for the avowed "Public Purpose" of irrigating large tracts of land in various districts of North Karnataka extending upto Yadagiri.
The issue before the Bench was therefore that what is the extent of judicial review permissible under Article 226 of the Constitution of India in a matter of such nature and the extent of power of the State to acquire lands under the umbrella provision "Public Purpose"?
At the outset, the Court noted that there was no dispute about the fact that the said project was meant to be implemented in various stages in order to quench the needs of large tracts of parched lands which the experts assessed as arable with scientific irrigation.
"There is also no dispute that a Dam has been built several decades ago benefiting tens and thousands of hectares of land in various districts of North-Karnataka region and the comprehensive plan envisaged implementation of what was called as "Unit-III," the Bench noted.
The Court observed that since governance is a complex task, the State is charged with onerous responsibility of promoting public welfare.
"Project in question is of mammoth proportion. Hon'ble Supreme Court has cautioned that in matters of this nature, it ill-behoves a Constitutional Court to smell foul-play on the part of administration merely because small error here or small infirmity there is pointed out by aggrieved petitioners appealing for judicial intervention," the Court said.
The Court also noted that the project in question had been conceived on account of severe drought affecting large parts of North Karnataka and that River Krishna had abundant water which remained unharnessed.
"Popular demand for water, science, and received wisdom cried for some action. The project was the culmination of a combination of such factors and popular government naturally has a mandate to implement it. That is a dynamic of any welfare state and particularly a democratic republic," the Court observed.
It added "Therefore, there can be no gain-saying that the implementation of the Project of which rehabilitation of displaced persons is an integral part was a sequel to the policy put together by the Government as democratic compulsion."
The Court said that it was satisfied from the material made available that the government had collected materials regarding the number of families going to be displaced. For the said reason, the Court said that it cannot go into sufficiency of the material for supporting the extent of acquisition made by the respondents authorities.
"The State was bound to factor in while acquiring the lands for the purpose of a project of ongoing nature of this kind, various other aspects like area of submergence, possible number of families going to be displaced, since inevitably in the very nature of the project execution taking a number of years more number of families requiring rehabilitation due to passage of time and the impossibility of rehabilitating from the old habitat in the same manner in the new habitat going to be built in the acquired land on account of the compulsion warranted by new methods of town planning and concomitant requirement for civic amenities," the Court said.
It added "…we are completely satisfied that the subject acquisition has to be seen as in fulfillment of the requirement of execution of ongoing project of rehabilitating the project displaced families as part of integral development ofBagalkot Town under BTDA which, perforce, should fulfill overlapping requirements and overlapping objectives."
The Court also said that it cannot "don the hat" of a town planner or that of an Accountant to minutely examine whether a slightly lesser extent of land would have fulfilled the objective or whether the project could have been implemented satisfactorily at another location.
"Such an exercise by us would tantamount to substituting our views to that of the State which has the advantage of expert advice," it said.
It added "There is absolutely no material to support the contention that the acquisition is colourable exercise of power and therefore, illegal. Once that is not demonstrated, no case is made out for our interference under the writ jurisdiction."
With the said observations, the appeals were dismissed.
Case Title: Gopal v. State of Karnataka
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 287