Karnataka

Courts can’t don the hat of a town planner: HC

High Court of Karnataka. A Division Bench made these observations in its judgment of dismissing pleas against acquisition of around 1,275 acres for Upper Krishna Project’s Unit-III rehabilitation scheme in two villages of Bakalkot district in 2013.

High Court of Karnataka. A Division Bench made these observations in its judgment of dismissing pleas against acquisition of around 1,275 acres for Upper Krishna Project’s Unit-III rehabilitation scheme in two villages of Bakalkot district in 2013. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The courts cannot don the hat of a town planner or that of an accountant to minutely examine whether a slightly lesser extent of land would have fulfilled the objective of a project or whether the project could have been implemented satisfactorily at another location, said the High Court of Karnataka.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Krishna S. Dixit and Justice P. Krishna Bhat made these observations in its judgment of dismissing pleas against acquisition of around 1,275 acres of lands for Upper Krishna Project’s Unit-III rehabilitation scheme in two villages of Bakalkot district in 2013.

Sons of Karjol

The Bench dismissed the appeals filed by Gopal, Umesh and Arun, all children of Minister Govind Karjol, and several other land owners, who had challenged the December 2021 order of a Single Bench, which had upheld land acquisition notifications.

“When a measure taken by the government is for implementing a mega infrastructural project pursuant to a policy framed embedded with the opinion of experts, court should refrain from acting like a super-accountant and interference with the same should be extremely rare where it is inevitable,” observed Justice Bhat while speaking for the Bench.

While rejecting contentions that excess lands were acquired for UKP Unit-III rehabilitation scheme and it could have been implemented at a different location, the Bench said, “It is primarily the task of the government to govern and in the guise of judicial review, courts should not seek to run the governments.”

Govt. will be hamstrung

“Smelling foul-play in the action of the government at a mere whiff of suggestion would make running the administration an impossibility and elected governments which are accountable to the people will be hamstrung in implementing projects for promoting public well,” the bench observed.

“Where two options are possible, it is not for the Court to act as an expert and substitute its own view for the view of the executive. In matters of such nature, an appeal is essentially to the ballot and not to the courts. Courts do not have the expertise nor the political mandate for deciding the comparative merits of two options,” the bench said.

Mammoth project

Pointing out that implementation of Unit-III UKP cannot be seen in isolation as it is a mammoth project, the Bench said the State government is bound to consider various factors, including the impossibility of rehabilitating from the old habitat in the same manner in the acquired land due to compulsion warranted by new methods of town planning and concomitant requirement for civic amenities.

The Bench found no material to support the contention that the acquisition is colourable exercise of power while accepting government’s claim that lands acquired to develop Bagalkot into a well regulated township.


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Printable version | Aug 20, 2022 1:08:27 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/courts-cant-don-the-hat-of-a-town-planner-hc/article65667359.ece