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Karnataka High Court dismisses PIL seeking direction for taking immediate steps to stop illegal construction of multistory building on a Government land

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The Karnataka High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed seeking direction to the official respondents to take immediate steps to stop the illegal construction of a multistoried building on a Government land.

The PIL filed by one Manjunath Badi , also seeks the quashment of agreements dated 01.06.2022, 03.09.2022 and 19.09.2022 along with the cost estimates.

The counsel for the petitioner argued that though the land in question belongs to the Government, the 7th respondent (Karnataka Rural Infrastructure Development Limited (KRIDL)) could not have undertaken the construction activity without the Sanctioned Plans & Building Licence/Permission. He also adds that such a huge project in question could have been awarded to the respondent KRIDL without following the procedure prescribed by the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurement Act, 1999.

The Additional Government Advocate having accepted notice for the official respondents opposes the petition contending that the same lacks in public interest; the construction is for the purpose of establishing offices and quarters of the Forest Department, which is a dire requirement because of forestation and such other allied activities being escalated. The petitioner has to show that there is any legal requirement of securing a Sanctioned Plan or a Building Licence by the Government for putting structures in its property. She also points out the Government Orders that exempt the project in question from provisions of 1999 Act. So contending, she seeks dismissal of the petition.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Prasanna B. Varale and Justice Krishna S. Dixit declined indulgence in the matter broadly agreeing with the submission made on behalf of the official respondents.

The Bench noted that the property belongs to the Government; the purpose of the project is to erect structures for the offices and quarters of the Forest Department which is a part of the Government. Such a project cannot be said to be lacking in public interest. In fact, the enormity of public interest lying in the project in question outways any arguable interest which the petitioner seeks to but failed to demonstrate as being paramount.

His first submission that this project could not have been undertaken without following the provisions of 1999 Act is bit difficult to countenance. The Additional Government Advocate is right in drawing the Court attention to the Government Notification dated 07.09.2016, issued under Section 4(g) of the 1999 Act whereby, the project in question is exempted from the usual procedure of public tender. This exemption notification obviously is not put in challenge , the Bench held.

The other submission of counsel for the petitioner that the Government ought to have taken Sanctioned Plans and Building Licence/Permission before undertaking the activity in question is not substantiated by drawing the Bench attention to the provisions of any statute much less the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976.

Section 299 of this Act provides for grant of permission for the execution of construction work with a site plan of the land, ground land, elevations and sections of the building. However, the said provision employees the term “If any person intends to construct … ” we are not sure that in that expression, the State Government as defined under Section 2(13) of this Act. There is a sea difference between “person” and “Government”. In the text and context Section 299, the term “any person” does not include the State Government. Section 3(28) of the Karnataka General Clauses Act, 1899 defines “person” to include any company or association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not. Thus, the Bench observed that there is absolutely no scope to include a Government within that definition, either.

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