Shillong, July 23: Meghalaya High Court today dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) pertaining to allotment of land to civil servants in New Shillong Township (NST).
President of the Civil Society Women’s Organisation Agnes Kharshiing had filed the litigation, whose respondents, included, among others, the Civil Services Officers’ Housing Cooperative Society Ltd.
Justice T. Nandakumar Singh and Justice S.R. Sen passed the 32-page judgment today.
The petitioner had challenged the policy decision of the Meghalaya government in issuing an order on August 18, 2008 for allotting a plot of land measuring 45.01 acres in the township in favour of the Civil Services Officers’ Housing Co-operative Society Ltd.
The questions for consideration in the litigation include whether the allotment of land to the society under the Meghalaya government for public welfare is within the realm of public purpose.
The other questions include the scope of judicial review for interference if the scheme comes within the realm of public purpose, and whether judicial interference was permissible when the action of the state government for distribution of state largesse for the public welfare come within the realm of public purpose.
In its affidavit, the society had stated that states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh have provided land to their officers as welfare measures, and the state government had acquired land for public welfare purposes for construction of residential quarters of housing society.
“It is also stated that the Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai, Maharashtra, is totally different from the present case for allotment of land to the society in as much as the said case related to allocation of land for development of a housing complex for welfare of serving and retired defence personnel, which were subsequently illegally diverted and allotted to non-defence personnel,” the judgment further stated.
Moreover, it was pointed out that the amount of compensation to be paid by the state government in acquiring the said land, the rate per acre comes to Rs 255,183 and 45.01 acres (which was allotted to the society) is Rs 1,14,85,825.
“Ten per cent of these is Rs 11,48,000 where the society had paid more than the amount which was paid in acquiring the land,” it stated.
While citing various other cases, the judgment stated that it was fairly settled that it was neither within the domain of the courts nor the scope of judicial review to embark upon an inquiry as to whether a particular public policy is wise or whether better public policy can be evolved.
“Nor are the courts inclined to strike down a policy at the behest of the petitioner merely because it has been urged that a different policy would have been fairer or wiser or more scientific or more logical,” the judgment stated.
Moreover, the judgment said it is fairly settled law that it is the state to decide whether the scheme framed by the state would directly or indirectly improve the living standards or means of livelihood of the public in the state.
“Judicial interference is permissible when action of government is unconstitutional and not when such action is allegedly not wise,” it further noted.
Further, the judgment said that the allegations are often more easily made than proved and the very seriousness of such allegations demands proof of a high order of credibility.
“The court would, therefore, be slow to draw dubious inferences from incomplete facts placed before it by a party. In the absence of necessary particulars of the charge of bias and malafide (intent) making out a prima facie case in the writ petition, the High Court is justified in refusing to carry on investigation into the allegations. Therefore, in the case of the charge of bias and malafide, there should be necessary particulars for making out a prima facie case in the writ petition,” the judgment added.
The judgment said the court was of the view that the allotment of land to the society under the policy decision of the government for public welfare comes within the realm of public purpose and would directly or indirectly improve the living standards and means of livelihood of not only the members of the society, but also the public, the residents of New Shillong Township and its neighbouring areas.
“The writ petition (PIL) is devoid of merit and accordingly dismissed,” the judges noted at the end of his judgment.