Friday, January 27, 2023

Rajasthan High Court disposes of PIL against panchayat bhawan in Barmer district

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The Rajasthan High Court has disposed of a Public interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the order whereby the land of village Saiyon Ka Tala has been allotted for the purpose of construction of Panchayat Bhawan of the newly formed Gram Panchayat.

The PIL, filed by one Moti Ram, averred that although a more suitable land situated in the centre of the village was surrendered by certain villagers for the construction of Panchayat Bhawan, the Sarpanch has, in his own interest, passed a resolution for the allotment of the land which is “gochar” land as per revenue records.

It has further been averred that firstly, the gochar land cannot be allotted for any other purpose and secondly, the same being at a far distance from the centre of the village would not be convenient for the villagers.

A reply has been filed on behalf of the State and it has been averred that the petitioner had surrendered the land on 16.06.2020 whereas the process for allotment of the land for construction of Panchayat Bhawan had been set in motion on 13.02.2020 itself. Secondly, the process for setting a part of the land in lieu of the gochar land has already been taken up by the revenue authorities and an equal land has been set apart for the gochar purposes. For the same, No Objection Certificate has also been issued by the Gram Panchayat.

An additional affidavit filed on behalf of the State has brought on record that the construction of the Panchayat Bhawan has already been completed and an amount of almost Rs 35 lakh has been spent for the same.

The Division Bench of Justice Sandeep Mehta and Justice Rekha Borana on bare perusal of the record noted that the construction of the Panchayat Bhawan has now been completed and substantial amount has been spent on the same. Further an equal land in lieu of the gochar land has already been set apart by the revenue authorities.

The Bench referred the case of Samast Gramvasi’s case (supra) by the Division Bench which held that it is the sole discretion of the administration to decide the issues as to where a government/public building is to be constructed.

In Samast Gramvasi’s case, the Division Bench held as under: “Where the Panchayat Bhawan should be constructed is primarily a relief to be considered by the administration dependent on the ground realities particularly when the Panchayat Bhawan is to cater the needs of the villagers. The disputes invariably arise as to which Gram Panchayat should have the onus of having the Panchayat Bhawan constructed on the land.

However, these are the issues to be judged by the administration and not by the Court. Unless the decision of the authority i.e. the Collector is shown to be irrational, arbitrary or mala fide, the Court would not interfere.”

Moresoever, the Bench observed that the present Panchayat Bhawan is situated on a location which is connected by pakka/tarmac road on two sides and is situated at equal distance that is 8 kilometers from the constituent revenue village of the gram panchayat Saiyon ka Tala; whereas on the contrary the land suggested by petitioner is situated 12 kilometers away from the constituent revenue village Durgoniyon ka Tala, which is in contravention to the guidelines of the state government wherein the distance from Gram Panchayat headquarter to its constituent villages cannot be more than 8 kilometers.

In view of the ratio laid down in Samast Gramvasi’s case (supra) and in view of the fact that the construction of the Panchayat Bhawan has since been completed, this Court is not inclined to interfere in the PIL. At this juncture, counsel for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner be permitted to move an application before the competent authority for withdrawal of surrender of his land which had been surrendered for construction of the Panchayat Bhawan.

“Permission as sought for is granted and it is directed that if the petitioner moves an appropriate application for withdrawal of the surrender of his land, the same be dealt with by the authorities in accordance with law. With these observations, the present PIL is disposed of,” the order reads.

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