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Karnataka High Court dismisses PIL against Directorate of Fisheries order

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The Karnataka High Court has dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the official memorandum dated 10.06.2022 issued by the Directorate of Fisheries (respondent no.2), wherein it said fishing rights in lakes under lift irrigation project, which are not yet filled with water, would be given to Fishing Co-operative Societies through direct lease.

The PIL filed by one H.J. Prasanna Kumar, who claims to be the Vice-President of Hennagara Gram Panchayat, sought following reliefs:

a) Issue appropriate writ or orders declaring that the impugned memorandum dated 10.06.2022 issued by the 2nd respondent is invalid, contrary to law and facts and opposed to the objectives of the state government gazette notification dated 09.03.2018 , hence liable to be quashed at the hands of the High Court;

b) Issue appropriate writ or direction by way of Writ of mandamus directing the 2nd respondent to keep in abeyance of his memorandum dated 10.06.2022 till the grant of lease for fishing rights relating to Hennagara lake is put in auction for the general public to bid so that it could fetch more money during open auction;

c) Issue appropriate writ or order declaring that the notification dated 10.06.2022 issued by the assistant director of fisheries (3rd respondent) is invalid, non-est in the eye of law when the Gazette Notification dated 09.03.2018 is still in force;

d) Issue appropriate writ or direction by way of writ of mandamus directing the 3rd respondent not to implement the notification dated 10.06.2022 till the disposal of this writ petition;

e) Issue appropriate writ or orders against the respondents as the High Court deems fit and proper in the circumstance of the case;

f) Issue appropriate writ or orders as the case may be against the respondents to pay the cost of the entire litigation as the High Court deems fit and proper in the circumstances of the case.

It is the case of the petitioner that the fishing rights have to be given by public auction and if the public at large are allowed to participate in public auction, the Government will be in a position to earn more revenue. It is the further case of the petitioner that only to accommodate co-operative society (Respondent no. 4) the impugned memorandum has been issued by respondent no.2.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the rights of local fishermen are affected because of the impugned memorandum. He also submitted that the State will be losing revenue if the fishing rights are given to Fishing Co-operative Societies through direct lease.

Per contra, Additional Government Advocate (AGA) submitted that the State Government has taken a policy decision to distribute fishing rights to people of the fishermen community and a decision is also taken to give preference to Fishing Co-operative Societies, of which, local fishermen community are members. She further submitted that such a policy decision is taken only in the interest of the fishermen community, and therefore, the impugned memorandum does not need any interference. AGA also submitted the impugned memorandum is an inter-departmental communication and not an order giving fishing rights to respondent no.4, and therefore, petitioner cannot have any grievance against the same.

Respondent no.2 vide the impugned memorandum has directed its officers to take action for giving fishing rights in the lakes coming under the lift irrigation project which are not filled with water to the Fishermen Co-operative Societies through direct lease.

AGA has brought to the notice of the Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice S. Vishwajith Shetty that the State Government has taken a policy decision to give the fishing rights in favour of Fishermen Co-operative Societies which have persons belonging to fishermen community alone and such a decision is taken keeping in mind the interest of the fishermen community.

The Bench observed that none of the local fishermen said to have been aggrieved or affected by the official memorandum have approached the High Court.

The Counsel for the petitioner has submitted that the petitioner does not belong to the fishermen community and he is only interested in espousing the cause of local fishermen.

The Court held that when the impugned memorandum has been issued by respondent no.2 taking into consideration the interest of the fishermen community, the petitioner has failed to point out to the High Court as to how the impugned memorandum would adversely affect the local fishermen.

AGA has submitted before the High Court that the State has taken a policy decision to give the fishing rights to the Fishermen Co-operative Societies, keeping in mind the interest of the local fishermen, and therefore, the loss of revenue if any to the Government cannot be a ground for interfering with the impugned memorandum issued by the State or the subsequent notification issued by it for disposal of fishing rights in the lakes which are the subject matter of the said notification.

The Court therefore, found no good reasons to entertain the petition which was filed in the interest of the public, more so in the interest of the local fishermen coming under the Hennagara village panchayat limits. Under the circumstances, the Bench declined to entertain the petition. Accordingly, the PIL was dismissed by the High Court.

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