Saturday, December 3, 2022

Gauhati High Court disposes of PIL alleging gross anomalies in implementation of PMGSY scheme in Arunachal Pradesh

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The Gauhati High Court recently disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed alleging gross anomalies of Rural Works Division, Government of Arunachal Pradesh in the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) scheme and resultant misappropriation of public fund in guise of the said scheme.

The case projected by the petitioners is that the PMGSY Scheme is for enhancing rural connectivity. In this regard reference has been made to the PMGSY Programme Guidelines issued in the month of January 2015, where in Clause 3.1, it has been mentioned that the spirit and the objective of the PMGSY is to provide good all-weather road connectivity to the eligible unconnected habitations, further clarifying that the habitation which was earlier provided all-weather connectivity would not be eligible even if the present condition of road is bad.

The counsel for the petitioners has referred to the documents annexed to this PIL to impress upon the Court that the construction of the present road being contract work of “L024/road Yazali-Sakiang road 40 km point to Pilla (VR24)” under PMGSY is a part of the road from Ambam to Pilla that was constructed by the PWD Mengio Sub-Division, which falls under the jurisdiction of PWD, Sagalee Division. The said fact is also revealed in the affidavit filed on behalf of respondents on 19.11.2020. Accordingly, it is projected that the existing PWD road is being re-constructed in the name of PMGSY and it is alleged that the said construction is a fictitious activity of the Rural works Division by re-making a PWD road without obtaining any prior NOC from the State PWD.

Having heard the counsel for the parties , the Itanagar Division Bench of Kalyan Rai Surana and Justice Robin Phukan observed that the construction activity undertaken in respect of the road, being part of the PWD road of the State, though appears to be irregular, however, the Court is not inclined to hold the said action on the part of the State Rural Work Department (RWD) to be wholly illegal.

It is further observed by the High Court that the overwhelming public interest would be in favour of the completion of the road to make it an all-weather road. It is seen from the observations made in the enquiry report, dated 04.10.2019 that the road from Sakiang Yazali Road 40Km point to Pilla is a fair weather road under PWD over which RWD has proposed to construct PMGSY road.

The Court noted that there is nothing on record which suggests that the decision at the appropriate level of the Rural Works Department was not undertaken to carry out construction work of the said road. Therefore, the action on part of the RWD to have a State PWD road re-constructed under the PMGSY scheme, cannot be said to be in contravention of the PMGSY Programme Guidelines issued in the Month of January, 2015, because as per Clause 3.1 thereof, a habitation which was earlier provided “all-weather” connectivity would not be eligible even if the present condition of the road was bad. The hereinbefore referred report indicates that the road was a “fair-weather” road. Therefore, in the absence of any materials on record, the Court is unable to come to a finding to the effect that the PWD road from Ambam to Nyopong road, though a PWD notified road was all weather road.

In connection with the PIL, the Government of India in the Ministry of Rural Development has not filed any affidavit-inopposition and no stand has been taken that the State PWD road, though not all-weather road but a fair-weather, road could not have been re-constructed under the PMGSY fund. Thus, the Court finds that notwithstanding such irregularity, the public at large is benefited by the construction of the PMGSY road notwithstanding the said stretch of road was a road under the State PWD.

The said amount having been already sanctioned and spent, it would serve no one’s interest by issuing a declaration to the effect that the construction of the road from Yazali-Sakiang road 40Km point to Pilla under PMGSY is illegal. The said expenditure was sanctioned during the year 2012-2013. “However, there is no material on record to suggest that the said road is already constructed and made operational. Therefore, the prayer made in this PIL is refused”, said the Court.

In view of the public interest involved , the High Court directed that the RWD authorities shall ensure that the work is completed within a reasonable time of 4(four) months.

“It would be appropriate to remind the RWD authorities that they have the power to ensure that work is completed within a specified time, and to take appropriate coercive or remedial steps if they are unable to complete the road within a reasonable time of 4(four) months from the date of this order. The learned Standing for the RWD shall download a copy of this order and transmit it to the Head of the Department by whatever designation called (including Secretary of the said Department). In order to ensure that there would be no overlapping of work or misuse of funds, which the petitioners apprehend, interest of justice would be met if the Rural Works Department is directed to formally handover the completed works on the said State PWD road to the State PWD authorities together with copy of all relevant documents relating to construction together with details of defect liability period’, order reads.

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