The Karnataka High Court recently observed that writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India by a Gram Panchayat in furtherance of its objective of protection of a public property is maintainable.
Justice M Nagaprasanna relied on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Village Panchayat, Calangute v. Director of Panchayat, wherein the Apex Court considered the very issue with regard to the maintainability of a writ petition by a Gram Panchayat. It held that considering the amendment to the Constitution empowering Gram Panchayats, it has been declared that a writ petition in certain circumstances by the Gram Panchayat challenging the order of the Executive Officer would be maintainable.
The Court was hearing two writ petitions in relation to a property. Petitioner V Harish had claimed that the property belonged to his mother but despite the order of the Executive Officer of Taluk Panchayat, the Gram Panchayat was refusing to register/re-enter khata in his name. The Krishnarajasagar Gram Panchayat had challenged the order of the Executive Officer which directed registration of khata in favour of the petitioner.
Counsel K N Nitish appearing for petitioner Harish had contended that "The Gram Panchayat cannot be seen to challenge the order of the Executive Officer of the Taluk Panchayat passed under Section 269 of the Act, as the Gram Panchayat cannot be construed to be a person aggrieved."
Further, it was said that:
"The writ petition is not maintainable and if the writ petition is not maintainable, no other grounds need to be considered. As regards maintainability, he would contend that the mother of the petitioner was in possession of the property on the strength of a niveshana hakku patra which was given by the Competent Authority and when the notified area became a Gram Panchayat area, the Gram Panchayat could not have resiled out of it and would submit the writ petition be allowed and a direction to implement the order of the Appellate Authority be granted."
However, the counsel B J Somayaji appearing for the panchayat submitted that petitioner has no right over the property, it is a public property that the petitioner wants to knock off as it is a vacant site measuring 150'x100' and the Government at no point in time had directed grant of hakku patra to a vacant site. According to the Panchayat, the Executive Officer has grossly erred in directing the entry of the name of the petitioner and the order so directing is bereft of reasons.
Further, it was said, "The present writ petition filed by the Gram Panchayat is in furtherance of its objective of protection of a public property, which the petitioner/claimant seeks a claim upon."
The court, relying on the Apex court judgment, said "The question that arose before the Apex Court was whether a writ petition by a Gram Panchayat calling in question the order passed by the Executive Officer was maintainable or otherwise. The contentions were that the writ petition was not maintainable and the contra contention was that it was. The Apex Court after considering the amendment to the Constitution empowering Gram Panchayats has declared that a writ petition in certain circumstances by the Gram Panchayat challenging the order of the Executive Officer would be maintainable. Therefore, the threshold bar that the petitioner/claimant seeks to contend is unacceptable and I hold the writ petition to be maintainable."
The court then considered the objections filed by them before the Executive Officer. It went through the order passed by him and said: "The order displays blatant non-application of mind. There is no consideration of either the case of the petitioner/claimant or the respondent - Gram Panchayat."
"The Executive Officer is considering a case before him under Section 269 of the Act. Therefore, it exercises quasi judicial powers. It is trite law that an order passed by a quasi-judicial authority determining the rights of the parties should contain reasons, as reasons would reflect application of mind. In an era where even administrative orders cannot be bereft of reasons, it can hardly be justifiable, if orders of quasi judicial authorities are cryptic, bald or laconic. Therefore, the contention of the learned counsel Sri.B.J.Somayaji deserves acceptance with regard to maintainability of the writ petition and obliteration of the order of the Executive Officer, Taluk Panchayat."
Accordingly, the court dismissed the petitioner filed by Harish and allowed the petition filed by the Gram Panchayat. It also quashed the order dated 07.09.2017 passed by the Executive Officer, Taluk Panchayat, Srirangapatna and remitted the matter back to the hands of the Executive Officer, Taluk Panchayat to re-determine the entire issue before it, hear the parties and pass appropriate orders, which would bear the stamp of application of mind. The court directed the Executive Officer to complete the exercises within four months.
Case Title: V.Harish And The President K.R.Sagara Grama Panchayat
Case No: Writ Petition No.12222/2018
Date Of Order: 30th Day Of August, 2021
Appearance: Advocate K.N.Nitish, A/W Advocate K.V.Narasimhan, For Petitioner.
Advocate B.J.Somayaji, For R1 & R3