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'How To Name It? Callousness? Apathy?': Madras High Court Repents 'Inadequate Bureaucratic Impulses' In Respecting Citizen's Right To Property

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
1 April 2021 6:01 AM GMT
How To Name It? Callousness? Apathy?: Madras High Court Repents Inadequate Bureaucratic Impulses In Respecting Citizens Right To Property
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The Madras High Court has recently made significant remarks on the issue of systemic delay in functioning of Government agencies and the resultant pressure on the Courts. "It is better to have one case less for the Court than to add one case more to it. But will the bureaucracy set the course for mission-change?" a Single Bench of Justice N. Seshasayee said when it was faced with...

The Madras High Court has recently made significant remarks on the issue of systemic delay in functioning of Government agencies and the resultant pressure on the Courts.

"It is better to have one case less for the Court than to add one case more to it. But will the bureaucracy set the course for mission-change?" a Single Bench of Justice N. Seshasayee said when it was faced with an 'avoidable' litigation, if only the Government agencies performed their duties and respected judicial orders.

The Bench noted that in a sizable number of cases that are filed these days, only a direction of a non-adjudicatory variety is sought, the solitary purpose of which is only to remind the authorities of what they ought to do, that which they have the capability to do without the intervention of the Court. This the Bench termed as 'Under-use of Courts'.

It observed that if the officials vested with the responsibility to address the issues, such as one in the instant case, discharge the same, enforced by a self-driven, self-guided, and well automated and disciplined administrative mechanism, then the Courts may not have to step in to interfere with its functioning.

"But, the cases on this category of avoidable litigation persists and piles up," the Bench remarked pointing to heavy burden on Courts due to "inadequate bureaucratic impulses" in respecting the citizen's rights, which ultimately results in huge pendency of cases.

The order stated,

"It is worrisome that the policy makers should accord least priority for streamlining and strengthening their internal mechanism that may address the ordinary issues of the common man. But, worse still is their unwillingness to realise that their inadequate responses to common issues ultimately burden the Courts. And, visible in its attitude is its inadequate appreciation that the duty of the Courts is limited to the judicial review of administrative action, akin to a referee in a foot ball game - to pull the yellow card or the red card when the player sidesteps the rules of the game, and not to kick the ball along with the players."

The Petitioners had moved the High Court seeking re-mutation of their names in the revenue records.

In the backdrop, the properties in question were notified for acquisition in December 2004 under the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Harijan Welfare Scheme Act,1978.

The land owners' objection to it was rejected by the District Collector in November 2005 following which, a final notification for acquisition was issued and the revenue records were 'promptly' mutated under Section 4(1) of the Act.

The order of the District Collector and the final notification were challenged by some of the Petitioners, and that came to be allowed by the High Court in September 2010. The Court however granted liberty to the Government to acquire the lands free of flaws.

Admittedly, no fresh acquisition was attempted and yet, there was no re-mutation of the names of the original land owners in the revenue records. It was only in July 2020 thereafter that a statement was issued by the Government agencies that the lands in question are proposed to be acquired again.

"How to name it? Callousness? Apathy? Negligence? Ignorance? Or, plain indignation?" the Bench remarked at the outset, taking stern view of the "natural tendency" of the bureaucracy of (not) respecting the right to property of the common man.

It noted that the remedy which the petitioners sought is resolvable as quickly as solving a straight-line algebraic problem with a single variable by applying the precedent in Ravindran v. The District Collector, Vellore District.

In the case of Ravindran (supra), the High Court dealt with similar facts where the Petitioner, having indisputable possession of the land in question, was forced to approach the Court for re-mutation. The High Court had declared therein that the right to property (which includes mutation) has close nexus to right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, and the Court is empowered under public law to remedy any such violation.

In this backdrop, the Single Bench directed the Respondent-authorities to pay the Petitioner a sum of Rs. 50,000/- as compensation for interfering with his right to property for over a decade, with no lawful justification.

In its order, the Bench ventured into the concept of Constitutional Morality, which signifies shared responsibility of all in equal vigor, and not one to the exclusion, or to the disadvantage of any of the constitutional institutions.

It observed that if the Executive, and its support system in the bureaucracy are not adequately effective, and the citizen's responsibility is also disproportionate to the requirement, then they put pressure on the judiciary.

"Hence, to believe that the duty is exclusively on the judiciary to protect the Constitution will necessarily be a hypothesis in escapism. If there is a sustained under use of the judiciary, then judiciary as a Constitutional institution is bound to face a possibility of its system weakening. The vitality of the Constitution must be understood as the combined strength of all the stakeholders, the citizen included," the bench said.

Before parting, the Bench reminded the bureaucratic set up of Article 261 of the Constitution which mandates that the Executive shall give full faith and credit to all judicial acts.

"Administrative fairness and the respect for rule of law necessarily includes respect for judicial orders. Article 261 of the Constitution indeed is a positive prescription written in a tone of moral philosophy. It may not have exhorted a sense of duty as in Article 51A of the Constitution, nor have installed any fear of penalty for its violation, but being a moral-binder it deserves spontaneous respect," the Bench concluded.

Case Title: Jayalakshmi & Ors. v. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors.

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