An Arbitrary ruling may not fit within the confines of law: In Bombay High Court

The phrase arbitrary refers to a course of action or a choice made without respect for norms or standards and is based on personal will or discretion rather than reason or Judgment. An arbitrary choice is taken without consideration for the facts and circumstances, and it implies that the evidence is ignored. This Judgment is pronounced by BHARATI H. DANGRE, J on 27.01.2022 in SITABAI RAMBHAU JORVEKAR V. TAHSILDAR.

The present case is a textbook example of highhandedness on the part of a State Government officer, especially when acting on behalf of a third party and playing into the hands of that third party, who, despite being defeated in all rounds of litigation, can obtain good orders from the Tahasildar, Newasa against the petitioner.

The petitioner intended to start a traditional brick-kiln company on the property she inherited because she was a widow with no source of income. She preferred an application to the Tahasildar for such authorization under Section 44 of the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, 1966, because it included acquiring the necessary approval to transform agricultural land into non-agricultural land. The activity for which the conversion was requested was expected to begin within one month. One of the authorization’s clauses stated that if any condition subject to which the permission was given was breached, the permission might be revoked.

The petitioner’s ability to run the brick-kiln company has been halted due to the National Green Tribunal’s ruling. The petitioner filed a provisional application with the National Green Tribunal while waiting for the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (for short “the MPCB”) to provide the necessary permits, and the Tribunal issued a decision. Shri S.T.Rajguru had recommended the case to the National Green Tribunal. According to the challenged order, to follow the Tribunal’s ruling, he sought the Tahasildar to cancel the NA permit.

According to the records, the order giving NA authorization was issued by the Tahasildar, Newasa. The Collector has the authority to provide permission to utilize the agricultural property for non-agricultural uses under section 44 of the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, 1966. Such consent can be given after a thorough investigation and on the terms and circumstances that the Collector specifies. The Tahasildar will be notified of the start date of the change of land usage.

By exercising power conferred on the Collector and delegated to the Tahasildar, the authority allowed non-agricultural use of the petitioner’s land subject to the stipulations contained in the order, which included payment of annual fees for the benefit of land for NA purposes and the authority’s right to revoke the permission.

However, the National Green Tribunal’s order did not order the NA approval to be revoked. The Tribunal had instructed that the MPCB evaluate the petitioner’s claim following the applicable rules. Because the petitioner had not given up her claim to operate the brick-kiln, subject to MPCB approval, the Tahasildar could not rescind the NA permit while the matter was pending before the MPCB. In light of the preceding facts, the Tahasildar hurriedly issued the impugned order canceling the NA license, which is highly arbitrary given that the petitioner’s bid to operate the brick-kiln was still pending before the MPCB.

The Tahasildar’s ruling is very arbitrary. It is important to note that, because there is no NA permit, the MPCB will be unable to evaluate the petitioner’s application for the operation of the brick-kiln subject to compliance with actual emissions and pollution criteria. The challenged order is quashed and set aside because it appeared to have been made at the request of a disgruntled element. It did not fit within the confines of the law, particularly when the Tahasildar’s unilateral decision to withdraw NA authorization without explaining its existence. In the terms stated above, the Writ Petition is granted. As a result, the rule becomes absolute.

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Reviewed by Rangasree

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