Thursday, February 29, 2024

Gujarat High Court dismisses PIL alleging irregularities in development project of Pampa Sarovar, Anjankund

The Gujarat High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed raising the issue with regard to certain irregularities committed in the implementation of development project of pilgrimage site namely, Pampa Sarovar and Anjankund which are located in District Dang.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Aniruddha P. Mayee held that this is a wholly misconceived petition filed by a person who claims to be a businessman involved in spreading awareness for protection of rich natural environment. In none of the paragraphs of the petition, the petitioner has stated the nature of business being carried out by him. From the array of the parties, the Bench noted that the petitioner is a resident of District Tapi.

As per the contention made in the petition, the said development has been carried out by the forest department in a project conceived by the State Government. In various paragraphs of the petition and the grounds stated therein, it is sought to be submitted that the grant was released for development and transformation of pilgrimage site and specific condition was enunciated in the initial order to utilize grant for given object only.

However, the respondent No.3 (the Chief Conservator of Forest, Sahyadri, Valsad Circle, Valsad) has ignored and arbitrarily utilized the grant for refurbishing of Circuit House of the forest department.

The High Court noted that there is no substance for such submission on the part of the petitioner and moreover, the concerned officer who was posted as the Chief Conservator of Forest, Sahyadri, Valsad Circle, Valsad, at the relevant point of time, who has allegedly taken wrong decision, is not impleaded herein.

The second ground stated in the petition is that without prior sanction of the State Government, without following the procedure, the work order beyond Rs.10 Crores and two work orders had been given to the same agency on the same day (13.9.2017). The agency is not party in the instant petition and moreover, the averments are vague as there is no clarity as to who had issued the work orders , the Court said.

Apart from the above two allegations, the assertion in the petition is that the representations given by the petitioner in the nature of complaints had not been dealt with by various authorities who are impleaded herein as respondents.

The Apex Court has issued directions from time to time to exercise due care and caution in entertaining a PIL raising an issue of public nature. In case of State of Uttaranchal v. Balwant Singh Chaufal & Ors. reported in (2010) 3 SCC 402, the Apex Court has held as under:

“198. In order to preserve the purity and sanctity of the PIL, it has become imperative to issue the following directions:-

(1) The courts must encourage genuine and bona fide PIL and effectively discourage and curb the PIL filed for extraneous considerations.

(2) Instead of every individual judge devising his own procedure for dealing with the public interest litigation, it would be appropriate for each High Court to properly formulate rules for encouraging the genuine PIL and discouraging the PIL filed with oblique motives. Consequently, we request that the High Courts who have not yet framed the rules, should frame the rules within three months. The Registrar General of each High Court is directed to ensure that a copy of the Rules prepared by the High Court is sent to the Secretary General of this court immediately thereafter.

(3) The courts should prima facie verify the credentials of the petitioner before entertaining a P.I.L.

(4) The court should be prima facie satisfied regarding the correctness of the contents of the petition before entertaining a PIL.

(5) The court should be fully satisfied that substantial public interest is involved before entertaining the petition.

(6) The court should ensure that the petition which involves larger public interest, gravity and urgency must be given priority over other petitions.

(7) The courts before entertaining the PIL should ensure that the PIL is aimed at redressal of genuine public harm or public injury. The court should also ensure that there is no personal gain, private motive or oblique motive behind filing the public interest litigation.

(8) The court should also ensure that the petitions filed by busybodies for extraneous and ulterior motives must be discouraged by imposing exemplary costs or by adopting similar novel methods to curb frivolous petitions and the petitions filed for extraneous considerations.”

As noted above, there is no disclosure in the PIL about the nature of occupation or the business being carried out by the petitioner, the High Court are not able to ascertain the credentials of the petitioner. It cannot be ascertained that PIL is aimed at redressal of genuine public harm or public injury or has been filed for extraneous considerations.

The Court is therefore, not inclined to entertained the PIL at the instance of the present petitioner which is otherwise also based on vague assertions and allegations.


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