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Bombay HC: The State is ideally a quintessence of justice and a model litigant

Title: State of Maharashtra and Anr. v. Ajay Rajendra Pawar.

Decided on: 23.08.2023

+ REVIEW PETITION (ST) NO. 29872 OF 2019

CORAM: SUNIL B. SHUKRE & MANISH PITALE, JJ

Facts of the Case:

The court is addressing two review petitions arising from an earlier common order issued on November 28, 2017, related to three writ petitions filed in 2016. The original petitions sought the enforcement of an order from September 9, 2014, in which the Minister of State for Revenue directed the state authorities to refund amounts deposited by the petitioners for leasing sand ghats. The petitioners argued that due to intervening circumstances beyond their control, they were unable to fully excavate the sand ghats, and therefore, the proportionate amounts they deposited should be refunded.

Issues:

The main issues revolve around the review of the 2014 order by another Minister of State for Revenue in a subsequent order dated July 2, 2019, and the subsequent actions of the state authorities. Additionally, the court examines the discriminatory treatment by the state authorities in implementing the orders for different petitioners.

Contentions:

The original petitioners argued that the subsequent order of July 2, 2019, was passed without jurisdiction, as it reviewed an already final order and was made subject to the result of pending writ petitions, even though no such petitions were pending at the time. They contended that the state authorities complied with the original order despite the subsequent order. The petitioners pointed out that the actions of the state authorities were discriminatory, as they complied with the 2017 order for one petitioner but filed review petitions for the other two.

The court criticized the state authorities for their discriminatory attitude and arbitrary actions, highlighting that the third beneficiary of the 2017 order had been treated differently. The court emphasized that the state, as a model litigant, should not perpetuate inequality and arbitrariness.

Decision:

The court rejected the request for additional time to obtain instructions from the Advocate General, considering the peculiar circumstances of the case and the injustice that would be done to the original petitioners. The court dismissed the review petitions filed by the state, stating that they should have realized their mistake and implemented the original order dated September 9, 2014, for all petitioners, just as they did for the third petitioner.

The court directed the state authorities to disregard the subsequent order of July 2, 2019, and implement the original order of September 9, 2014, for the two original petitioners. It ordered the state to pay the due amounts to the petitioners within three weeks from the date of the order, and in case of failure, imposed a simple interest rate of 7.0% per annum on the amounts due from November 28, 2017, until the release of the amounts. Additionally, the state was ordered to pay costs of Rs. 5 lakhs to each of the petitioners, which could be recovered from the concerned officers at the state’s discretion.

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Written by- Aparna Gupta, University Law College & Dept. of Studies in Law

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