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Disposal of land vested in the Government should be dealt with only by following a fair and transparent procedure: High Court of Karnataka

The competent authority should, as a matter of course, issue an advertisement incorporating therein the conditions of eligibility so as to enable all similarly situated eligible persons/institutions/organizations to participate in the process of allotment, whether by way of auction or otherwise. The Government may allot land at a concessional price, but in that case, also the allotment must be preceded by a fair process consistent with Article 14 of the Constitution of India. This was held in SHRI B.V. SHIVASWAMY v. THE GOVERNMENT OF KARNATAKA & ORS.[WRIT PETITION NO.20651 OF 2007 (BDA-PIL)] in the High Court of Karnataka by division bench consisting of CHIEF JUSTICE MR. ABHAY S. OKA AND JUSTICE S. VISHWAJITH SHETTY.

Facts are that PIL has been filed for bulk allotment of land to an extent of 33 acres 02 guntas situated at Doddakallasandra village made by the Bangalore Development Authority to the Bangalore Development Authority Employees’ Welfare Association. According to the petitioners, the Schedule Land was sold to the respondent at a peanut price and there was a huge loss to the State exchequer to the tune of rupees twenty crores.

The counsel for the petitioner contended that granting of such a valuable land at a lower price and that too to an association of the employees of the BDA is gross illegality. There has been a breach of the provisions of the Bangalore Development Authority (Bulk Allotment) Rules, 1995. Schedule Land in issue is exclusively reserved for grazing of animals. But the Schedule Land was allotted to the respondent for residential use without following the procedure contemplated under Section 71 of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964.

The counsel for the respondents submits the Government had accorded permission to the BDA to allot bulk land to the respondent. The land has ceased land reserved for grazing due to urbanization.

Learned counsel appearing as Amicus Curiae submitted that the Schedule Land allotted to the respondent is a Gomal land. The allotment has been made in gross violation of Section 71 of the KLR Act and KLR Rules. He relied upon Rule 97 of the KLR Rules and submitted that due to violation of the said provision, the allotment made in favor of the respondent is illegal. He also made reference to proviso sub-rule (1) of Rule 7, Rule 9, And Rule 10 that deal with Bulk Allotment Rules, principles of selection, and price fixation.

The court in order to discuss the need for transparency in disposal of land vested in govt and relied on the judgment of Apex Court in the case of Akhil Bhartiya Upbhokta Congress – vs- State of Madhya Pradesh and another., wherein the following observations were made,“What needs to be emphasized is that the State and/or its agencies/instrumentalities cannot give largesse to any person according to the sweet will and whims of the political entities and/or officers of the State. Every action/decision of the State and/or its agencies/instrumentalities to give largesse or confer benefit must be founded on a sound, transparent, discernible, and well-defined policy, which shall be made known to the public by publication in the Official Gazette and other recognized modes of publicity and such policy must be implemented/executed by adopting a non-discriminatory and non-arbitrary method irrespective of the class or category of persons proposed to be benefited by the policy.”

The court perused the proceedings of the meeting of the BDA and the resolution passed therein, with the statement of objections filed by the BDA. In the said proceedings, a decision was taken by the BDA to allot the Schedule Land to the respondent under the Bulk Allotment Rules.

Considering the facts of the case and keeping in mind the settled position of law on the subject. The Court held that, while making bulk allotment to the respondent, the procedure followed by the BDA showed a lack of transparency and fairness. The action of the BDA being discriminatory and arbitrary would amount to a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. The court rejected the writ petition only on the ground of non-joinder of more than 759 members of the BDA Employees’ Welfare Association.

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