Legal Correspondent

Bench slaps Rs. 5-lakh costs on Karnataka Government

Arguments frivolous, litigation mala fide No need to review all decisions after change of government Court justifies acquisition of 20,000 acres

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected appeals by Karnataka and others against a Karnataka High Court judgment asking the State Government to proceed with the Rs. 2,250-crore Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor project.

"Considering the frivolous arguments and the mala fides with which the State of Karnataka and its instrumentalities have conducted this litigation before the High Court and us, it shall pay Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise Ltd. costs quantified at Rs. 5 lakhs within four weeks," said a three-judge Bench. The Bench, comprising Justices Ruma Pal, B.N. Srikrishna and Dalveer Bhandari, slapped costs of Rs. 50,000 on J.C. Madhuswamy and two others for filing the appeals, in addition to what was already ordered by the High Court. It directed that this amount be paid to the Supreme Court Legal Services Authority within four weeks.

Writing the judgment, Justice Srikrishna found merit in Nandi's arguments that after a new government (led by Dharam Singh) came to power in 2004, the former Prime Minister, Deve Gowda, and his son, then a Minister in the State Cabinet, tried to scuttle the project.

The Bench said: "It appears that there could hardly be a dispute that the project is a mega project, which is in the larger public interest of Karnataka. Merely because there was a change in government there was no necessity for reviewing all decisions taken by the previous government, which is what appears to have happened."

On the government's contention that about 2,450 acres of land was in excess and not required for the project, the Bench said the High Court had rejected every argument on this issue. "Permitting the argument on excess land to be heard again to scuttle a project of this magnitude would encourage dishonest, politically motivated litigation and permit the judicial process to be abused for political ends."

The Bench pointed out that the experts committee constituted in 2004 to review the project was headed by K.C. Reddy, who was advisor to the then Public Works Minister. Like the State government, the committee also made flip-flops and came out with a report saying there was acquisition of excess land.

On the government's argument that the High Court ought not to have entertained the matter, the Bench said: "When the State's acts of omission or commission are tainted with extreme arbitrariness and with mala fides, it is certainly subject to interference by the constitutional courts."

Justifying the acquisition of over 20,000 acres, it said the project was conceived for the development of roads between Bangalore and Mysore together with numerous development infrastructure activities along the highway.

"As an integrated project, it may require the acquisition and transfer of lands even away from the main alignment of the road," the Bench said.

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