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Patna High Court Upholds Lower Court’s Dismissal of Public Interest Litigation filed against nominations made by district judge

Case title:  The Sikh Collective Vs The State of Bihar

Case no.:  800 of 2024

Dated on: 16th February 2024

Quorum:  HONOURABLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE and HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE RAJIV ROY CAV JUDGMENT (Per: HONOURABLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE)

FACTS OF THE CASE

The writ petition is filed against the nomination made by the District Judge, Patna to the Prabandhak Committee, which is managing the affairs of Sri Takhat Harimandir Ji, Patna Saheb, Patna City. The writ petition is filed as a public interest petition. The petitioner is a Sikh Collective (Sikh) which is not stated to be registered as a society or association and in that circumstance it cannot be deemed to be a legal entity. Further, the respondents impleaded are the three nominees and none from the community even in a representative capacity.

ISSUES

  • Whether the applicant has locus standi to file the petition before this court?
  • Whether the court can invoke the extraordinary discretionary remedy under Article 226 of the Constitution of India?

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Article 226 of The Indian Constitution

Power of High Courts to issue certain writs: Notwithstanding anything in article 32 every High Court shall have powers, throughout the territories in relation to which it exercise jurisdiction, to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases, any Government, within those territories directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warrantor and certiorari, or any of them, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III and for any other purpose.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

The petitioner contends that the District Judge, Patna ought not to have made the three nominations before the election is over, since it is de hors and ultra vires the provisions of the Constitution and by-laws governing the formation of the Committee and would lead to frustrating the democratic process of election of the committee members. The petitioners are concerned with the management of the religious place and it cannot be said that the community which has interest in the affairs of the institution and also the management of the same is either marginalized or downtrodden, requiring this Court to invoke the extraordinary discretionary remedy under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, bypassing the other remedies available.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS

The counsel contended that the Constitution and Bye-laws are produced at Annexure-1. The nomination made by the District Judge is in his ex officio capacity. Nomination is made under Clause 9 of Chapter IV and there are 15 members in the Managing Committee of which 14 are nominated by the various bodies; three being nominated by the District Judge. Three members are elected by the local Sikhs of Patna district and the remaining member is co-opted by the 14 members constituting the committee. Prima facie, we are of the opinion that there is nothing mandating the nomination to be done after the election. Further, none of the other existing committee members have been impleaded in the present writ petition.

 COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The court did not find any reason to interfere with the orders of the District Judge, in a Public Interest Litigation and to invoke and exercise the extraordinary power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, in public interest, in the above case; the grievance projected in which has to be agitated in an appropriate civil forum. Declining discretionary exercise of the extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the court dismissed the writ petition. The court also made it clear that it has merely declined discretion and it does not validate the nomination which, if any individual or body is prejudiced with, will have to be agitated before the appropriate civil forum. When such proceedings are instituted, it would be for the forum approached to decide on the locus standi of the applicant and maintainability of such a proceeding; and if found inclined on these aspects, to decide on the merits.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Fathima Sara Sulaiman

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