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Rajasthan High Court dismisses PIL highlighting illegal construction on Gram Panchayat land

The Rajasthan High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed raising the grievance that the respondent – Panchayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadri, District Pratapgarh, particularly its Pradhan (respondent No.4) is illegally raising construction over the land belonging to the Gram Panchayat, Bambori, Panchayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadri, District Pratapgarh.

It is contended by the petitioners that the Panchayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadri, without obtaining consent of the Gram Panchayat, Bambori, is constructing shops over the land of the Gram Panchayat, Bambori and that too without following the procedure laid down under the law.

It is also contended that the respondent No.4 – Pradhan of the Panchayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadri is getting the shops constructed for her own benefit and not for the benefit of the residents of the Gram Panchayat, Bambori.

Pursuant to the notice issued by the High Court, respondent-State and other respondents have filed their replies to the petition, wherein it is urged that the construction of the shops is being carried out by the Panchayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadri out of the funds given by the State Government.

It is specifically stated by the respondent-State that the Panchayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadri is constructing shops over the land belonging to the Gram Panchayat, Bambori as per the request made by the Sarpanch of Gram Panchayat, Bambori vide letter dated 27.01.2022. It is contended that the Panchayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadri in its General Meeting dated 07.02.2022 passed a resolution for constructing shops at Gram Panchayat, Bambori near Durga Chowk and a sum of Rs.10,00,000/- has been sanctioned for the same. It is contended that as per the said resolution, administrative and financial sanctions were granted by the competent authority and thereafter construction of the shops in question was started.

It is also stated by the respondent-State in its reply that earlier also a petition was filed before a Single Bench of the High Court by some of the residents of Gram Panchayat, Bambori, however, the said petition was dismissed vide order dated 15.07.2022 as not pressed with liberty to move appropriate representation before the District Collector, Pratapgarh.
It is also stated by the respondent-State in its reply that thereafter some of the residents of Gram Panchayat, Bambori filed a civil suit before the Senior Civil Judge Chhoti Sadari, District Pratapgarh, which came to be rejected vide order dated 04.08.2022 on an application under Order VII Rule 11 read with Section 151 of CPC filed on behalf of the State as well as the Panchayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadari.

Pursuant to the direction given by the High Court on 07.02.2023, an additional affidavit has been filed on behalf of respondent-State, wherein it is clarified that before starting the construction of shops in question, strict compliance of Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 as well as Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Rules, 1996 has been made by the Pancyayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadri. It is submitted that after inviting tenders from the interesting parties, work order was issued to one of the firm for supplying construction material and after receiving the same, the construction work was done by the labours of MGNREGA.

Sunil Beniwal, AAG appearing on behalf of respondent-State has submitted that the allegation of the petitioners that shops in question, which are under construction, would be used by the respondent No.4–Pradhan of Panchayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadri is without any basis. It is submitted that after construction of the shops in question, the same will be handed over to the Gram Panchayat, Bambori. It is also submitted that with the construction of the shops in question, the Gram Panchayat, Bambori will be able to increase its revenue by letting out the said shops as per the procedure laid down under the law.

Reply to the additional affidavit has also been filed on behalf of the petitioners.

Having heard counsel for the parties and after perusing the material available on record, the Division Bench of Justice Vijay Bishnoi and Justice Yogendra Kumar Purohit opined that when the Gram Panchayat, Bambori itself has requested the Panchayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadri to construct the shops in question for the purpose of increasing its revenue and when the Panchayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadri is constructing the shops in question after following the due procedure of law, we don’t find any reason to interfere in the petition.

Manish Patel, counsel for the petitioners, at this stage, has raised a grievance that due to construction of the shops in question, the public way would be obstructed. However, from the photographs produced before this Court, it is clear that sufficient space is available for the public way in front of the shops in question.

“In view of the above, this writ petition is dismissed. However, it is ordered that after completion of construction of the shops in question, the Panchayat Samiti, Chhoti Sadri will immediately hand over the newly constructed shops to the Gram Panchayat, Bambori, which in turn will let out the said shops after following the procedure laid down under the law”, the Bench directed.

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