The Supreme Court on Friday quashed the land allotted to Chandigarh law Institute Pvt. Ltd., an entity which had two sons of judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and a senior advocate among its directors.
The appeal in the Supreme Court was filed by the Institute after the Punjab and Haryana High Court had also pronounced that the allotment of land was invalid. The institute was allotted 5.75 acres of land in Chandigarh at Rs. 900/- per square yard only.
Thereafter, a writ petition was filed by Mr. Neeraj Sharma before the Punjab and Haryana High Court wherein "Division Bench of the High Court, consisting of the then Chief Justice and a puisne Judge, by two separate but concurring orders disposed of the writ petition cancelling the allotment of land and directing the Union Territory of Chandigarh to take necessary corrective steps in the matter in consonance with the constitutional philosophy of Article 14 of the Constitution of India and further directed the Union Territory of Chandigarh to take policy decision for allotment of educational institutional sites in favour of eligible persons so as to ensure that the allotments are made objectively and in a transparent manner.", notes the Supreme Court judgment.
As the two judges did not agree on certain paragraphs, the matter was referred to the third judge, who also pronounced against allotment of land and cancelled the allotment.
Before the Supreme Court, the Institute argued that "the learned nominated Judge has erred in not appreciating the separate orders passed by the two learned Judges of the Division Bench of the High Court", and the matter should have been referred to a larger Bench.
The Supreme Court judgment mentions the further arguments made as, "It was further contended that the High Court ought to have noticed that the land involved in this appeal had been allotted to the appellant-Institute after proper scrutiny and on the published and notified rates of the land with a condition for specific utilization of the land on lease hold basis and that none of the town planning was affected by the allotment of land in question in favour of the appellant-Institute since the area of land in question is situated in the institutional area where educational institutions are functioning."
The law institute also questioned the locus standi of the petitioner. It was also argued that all the procedural requirements regarding allotment were met and that the allocation was proper.
Writing for the Bench, Justice Gowda answered all the issues point by point and said "It is clear to us that the respondent No. 1-the writ petitioner has filed a bonafide writ petition and he has the necessary locus." The Court also relied upon the earlier judgments delivered by the Supreme Court regarding the issue of locus standi.
On the other hand, the judgment notes the Respondent as submitting, "It is submitted on behalf of the first respondent that the allotment of public land at throw away price or at no price to the private educational institutions with anavowed object to serve the public interest is contrary to the theory of "charitable education" that serve the pious cause of literacy. The aforementioned legal issue was visualized by this Court and has lucidly laid down the law in the case of Union of India & Anr.v. Jain Sabha, New Delhi & Anr."
The Court also relied on judgment delivered by lord Denning Laker Airways Ltd. v. Deptt. of Trade and held that, "we have to record our finding that the discretionary power conferred upon the public authorities to carry out the necessary Regulations for allotting land for the purpose of constructing a public educational institution should not be misused."
Relying on Modern School v. Union of India and Others, the Supreme Court said, "We, therefore, disregard the plea of charitable intention or philanthropic goal behind the establishment of the appellant educational institution as the establishment of the same does not serve any public interest and we cannot allow the allotted to make money or profiteer with the aid of the public property."
The Court finally held, "We, therefore, conclude that the High Court has rightly held that the policy followed by the Chandigarh Administration where the allotment of land was done in favour of the appellant-Institute without giving any public notice and in the absence of a transparent policy based upon objective criteria and without even examining the fact that the Union Territory of Chandigarh is already under extreme pressure of over population and even in the case of allotment of school sites by making no attempt to enforce clause 18 of the Scheme, 1996, there by confining the said provision merely to the statute book, is arbitrary, unreasonable and unjust and is opposed to the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution of India."
The judgment of the Supreme Court has also received a comment from the formed Additional Solicitor General Indira Jai singh, she tweeted "SC strikes down allotment of land for law collegs to children of judges at throw away prices, what ethics will they teach to law students".