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The Thodu Tangle: The Karnataka High Court Validates Villagers’ Concerns on Bridge Construction.

Samad A.A. & Ors. v. State of Karnataka & Ors.

Writ Appeal No.: 636 OF 2024

Court: High Court of Karnataka.

Coram: Hon’ble J. B.M. Shyam Prasad, J. T.G. Shivashankare Gowda.

The High Court of Karnataka delivered a judgment on May 2, 2024, on a writ appeal filed against an interim order dated 18.03. 2024. The interim order directed the Deputy Commissioner of Madikeri to remove a concrete road constructed on a thodu within four weeks.

 

FACTS OF THE CASE

The appellants are the residents of Mugatageri village in Kodagu District. A concrete road has been put up on the thodu (a small stream or water channel) in their locality, which might have resulted in the stagnation of water. The initial petition was filed by Sri K.K. Deepak against various state officials and local authorities responsible for the construction and maintenance of the road. After this, there were directions to remove the concrete road, but actions were yet to be taken due to the election.

 

LEGAL ISSUES

  1. Whether the appellant’s rights would be affected by the implementation of the interim order directing the removal of the concrete land?
  2. Whether the appellants should have been impleaded as parties in the writ petition before passing the interim order?

 

LEGAL PROVISIONS

  • Section 4  of the Karnataka High Court Act, 1961, under which the appeal was filed.
  • Rule 27 of the Writ Proceedings Rules, 1977, states that a certiorari writ petition must include certified or authenticated copies of the order to be quashed and, if applicable, copies of orders from all involved authorities.
  • Additionally, the case involves principles under environmental protection laws concerning water bodies.

CONTENTIONS BY THE APPELLANTS

The learned counsel for the appellants contended that the implementation of the interim order directing the removal of the concrete road would affect their rights as they were not made parties to the original writ petition. Thus, their rights and interests were only considered after passing the interim order. The petitioners argued that the construction of concrete roads over thodu may have led to significant water stagnation, affecting the local land properties. They also contended that despite the direction of the Tahsildar, the Panchayat Development Officer, to remove the concrete road, no action was taken.

CONTENTIONS BY THE RESPONDENTS

The learned Additional Government Advocate, representing the respondents, submitted that the interim order could not be implemented due to the elections during the time of order. However, he did not oppose the appellant’s contention that they should have been included and heard before passing the interim order to address their concerns appropriately.

ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGEMENT

The Hon’ble High Court recognized the environmental issues resulting from the construction of the road over the thodu. It observed that the grievances of the appellants regarding the interim order and their concerns were valid as they were not given an opportunity to present their case in the original writ proceedings. The Court acknowledged the delay due to elections and deemed it necessary to provide the appellants an opportunity to file the applications.

CONCLUSION

The case above is an example of the importance given to the principles of natural justice by the courts. The courts allowed the appellants to be heard before the implementation of an order that might affect their rights. This case highlights the necessity of ensuring that all parties are heard in judicial proceedings. It also underscores the importance of maintaining natural environments and addressing the impact of infrastructure projects on the environment.

Judgement reviewed by Maria Therese Syriac.

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A notice to terminate the contract cannot be issued unilaterally by one party without the adjudication of the Court: Jharkhand High Court

Case title – M/s Aditya and Rashmi Construction Pvt. Ltd. VS The State of Jharkhand & Ors

Case no. – W.P. (C) No. 2924 of 2014

Decision on – February 27, 2024

Quoram – Justice Rongon Mukhopadhyay & Justice Deepak Roshan

Facts of the case

The Petitioner, M/s Aditya and Rashmi Construction Pvt. Ltd, a Private Limited Company, participated in a tender process floated by the respondent-authorities for construction of a High-Level Bridge over Mayurkola River at 17 Km. The petitioner being the successful bidder was awarded the contract of Rs.3,00,36,287/- and the time for completion was 13 months. The Parties entered into an agreement for the same.

The Petitioner’s work got delayed due to non-acquisition of land and non-payment of compensation by the respondents. Despite, several representations to the authorities to remove such hindrances and facilitate the construction work, there was no action taken by the respondents.

Although an extension of time was granted to the Petitioner upon its application, the same was contradicted by serving a show cause notice on the potential termination of the contract and blacklisting. The Petitioner responded to the notice, but however, the contract was terminated. Further, the authorities issued an order to recover an amount of Rs. 1,04,33,493/- on the ground of fundamental breach, negligence and slow progress in the work allotted to the petitioner. Subsequently, a writ petition was filed by the Petitioner before the High Court.

Submission on behalf of the Petitioner

The Counsel appearing for the Petitioner submitted that termination of the contract issued by the respondent is in gross violation of the principle of natural justice. Moreover, though a show cause notice was issued to the petitioner, no personal hearing was given prior to such termination.

He further, submitted that the delay in the construction work is due to the lethargic attitude of the respondents in acquiring the land and thus, contended that the petitioner was not at any default.

The Counsel submitted that the respondent-authorities have unilaterally terminated the contract and issued a certificate case for realization of the damages. Further, there was also no adjudication on this matter to fix the quantum of damages.

Submission on behalf of the Respondent

The Counsel highlighted clause 49 of the SBD Agreement, which outlines that the obligation of the contractor to pay liquidated damages to the employer on account of failure of completion of the work allotted within the intended completion or on account of the fundamental breach of the contract by the contractor.

The Counsel argued that attributing project failure solely to the respondent authorities, emphasizing that the lack of land acquisition during a specific period cannot solely be deemed to be the fault of the respondent.

Court’s Analysis and Judgement

The Court noted that the construction of Bridge was not possible without the complete acquisition of the land. The Court observed that the show cause notice to terminate the contract was issued immediately after the authorities granted a time extension for the Construction. Moreover, the authorities proceeded without providing the petitioner an opportunity to be heard before the termination.

The Court asserted that the mere acquisition of the land without extending the compensation to the land holders would automatically lead to disruption in the construction process.

The Court after the perusal of the facts pointed to arbitrary action by the authorities in terminating the contract wand imposing Rs. 1,04,33,493/- as liquidated damages instead of closing the contract or refunding of the security deposit.

The Court relied upon the decisions in State of Karnataka vs Shree Rameshwara Rice Mills, J.G. Engineers Private Limited vs Union of India and Another, and Inox Air Products Limited vs Steel Authority of India Limited, which emphasized that whether either party breached the contract terms must be adjudicated by a Court or Tribunal, and cannot be unilaterally decided by one party.

The Court held that despite repeated representations by the petitioner the respondent-authorities failed to provide any response in that regard. Therefore, the Court allowed the writ petition and quashed the order terminating the contract and demanding the liquidated damages.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Keerthi K

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