Thursday, March 23, 2023

Madras High Court imposes cost, dismisses PIL in illegal encroachment case

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The Madras High Court imposed a cost of Rs 15,000 on the petitioner and dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed seeking a direction on respondents to remove the illegal encroachment and construction of building in Survey No.658 of Pallikaranai Village, Sholinganallur Taluk.

The PIL has been filed by one V.Prabhu.

V. Jayaprakash, counsel for the petitioner, submits that even after making a representation, the respondents failed to take action in the matter and allowed the private respondent to continue the construction of the building. A reference was made to the application dated 14.10.2021 calling for a copy of the survey report pursuant to the order of the court. The relevant paragraph of the same is quoted hereunder: “As per the order of the Court the Tahsildar of Velachery and Tahsildar of Sholinganallur have surveyed the land above jointly. It is requested under the Right to Information Act 2005 to give the copy of the Authenticity report of the land survey done at the time of submitting to the Court.”

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice N. Mala asked counsel for the petitioner to refer to the document, where the order of court exists. It was stated that there exists no order of the court and thereby the statement of fact given in the representation in reference to the court’s order became false.

The petitioner then referred to another representation dated 13.4.2022, alleging no action was taken by the respondent authorities even pursuant to it.

The High Court have gone through the aforesaid representation and found that information under the Right to Information Act, 2005 was denied for the reasons stated therein. The counsel for the petitioner submitted that no information was given to the petitioner pursuant to the application under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

“A casual statement cannot be made before the court.” In the present case, the High Court found the averments so as the submissions made by the counsel for the petitioner contrary to record. It is borne out of records that while dealing with the application under the Right to Information Act, 2005, the information was conveyed to the petitioner vide letter dated 19.1.2022 of the Public Information Officer, Executive Engineer, Zone XIII, Greater Chennai Corporation. It was regarding the planning permission obtained by the private respondent for putting up construction. Therefore, the Court found all through misleading statements in the petition as well as the submissions made before the Court.

At this stage, learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that a Court Commissioner be appointed to find out whether the construction has been raised on a patta land after getting approval. The prayer aforesaid is nothing but to endorse a fishing enquiry into the matter by the court, whereas it is settled law that public interest litigation should be filed after proper research and not for conducting a fishing and roving enquiry by the court.

At this juncture, the Court referred to the following observation made by the Apex Court in State of M.P. Vs. Narmada Bachao Andolan, (2011) 7 SCC 639: “13. Strict rules of pleading may not apply in PIL, however, there must be sufficient material in the petition on the basis of which the court may proceed. The PIL litigant has to lay a factual foundation for his averments on the basis of which such a person claims the reliefs. The information furnished by him should not be vague and indefinite. Proper pleadings are necessary to meet the requirements of the principles of natural justice. Even in PIL, the litigant cannot approach the court to have a fishing or roving enquiry. He cannot claim to have a chance to establish his claim. However, the technicalities of the rules of pleading cannot be made applicable vigorously. Pleadings prepared by a layman must be construed generously as he lacks the standard of accuracy and precision particularly when a legal wrong is caused to a determinate class.”

In this case, the Bench went on to observe that the petitioner has not come with a case that the construction has been raised on a government land by way of encroachment, rather for that he wants the Court Commissioner to be appointed. The statement of facts and the submissions are otherwise contrary to record.

According to the Court the Public interest litigation is an extremely important jurisdiction exercised by the Supreme Court and the High Courts. The Apex Court in Neetu v. State of Punjab, (2007) 1 SCC 614, held that when a particular person is the object and target of a petition styled as public interest litigation, the Court has to be careful to see whether the attack in the guise of public interest is really intended to unleash a private vendetta, personal grouse or some other mala fide object.

That apart, in Ashok Kumar Pandey v. State of West Bengal, (2004) 3 SCC 349, the Apex Court held that public interest litigation is a weapon which has to be used with great care and circumspection and the judiciary has to be extremely careful to see that behind the beautiful veil of public interest an ugly private malice, vested interest and/or publicity-seeking is not lurking. The courts must be careful to see that a body of persons or member of public, who approaches the Court is acting bona fide and not for personal gain or private motive or political motivation or other oblique consideration. The court must not allow its process to be abused for oblique considerations by masked phantoms who monitor at times from behind. Petitions of such persons deserve to be thrown out by rejection at the threshold, and in appropriate cases with exemplary costs.

“The case on hand, which is styled as public interest petition, is clearly an abuse of the process of court for the reasons stated herein above”, said the High Court.

“For the reasons given above, the writ petition is dismissed with costs assessed at Rs.15,000/- to be deposited by the petitioner with the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority within fifteen days from today. The Registrar (Judicial) would ensure the compliance of the said direction and if it is not made, the disposed of writ petition may be listed before the Court for appropriate order for compliance”, the order reads.

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