Take no steps on TSRTC privatisation now, says HC

Telangana High Court in Hyderabad.

Telangana High Court in Hyderabad.   | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal


Court passes interim order on Public Interest Litigation petition

The Telangana High Court on Friday passed an interim order directing the State government not to take any further steps till Monday on its decision to privatise 5,100 permits of TSRTC.

After hearing a PIL petition challenging the move to privatise TSRTC, the HC also instructed Advocate General B.S. Prasad to present a copy of the State Cabinet’s decision on the matter. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A. Abhishek Reddy, which heard the PIL filed by P.L. Vishweshwar Rao of the Telangana Democratic Front, posted the plea for Monday.

When petitioner’s counsel Chikkudu Prabhakar rose to present his contention, the AG said the petitioner, being a single individual, could not challenge the State Cabinet’s decision. “I have Supreme Court judgement to substantiate this,” the AG said.

The CJ asked petitioner’s counsel if he had the copy of the Cabinet decision. When Mr. Prabhakar said copy of the privatisation decision was not made public. Observing that it could be available with the AG, the CJ asked him to furnish a copy of the Cabinet decision.

‘Nothing privileged’

“It is a privileged proceeding,” the AG said, observing that he could not submit it to the court. “There is nothing privileged. Cabinet decision is not a secret document,” the CJ said. With the AG expressing doubts if the State Cabinet’s decision could be assailed by a citizen, the CJ explained the matter was between the petitioner and the government. Once the matter was taken up for hearing, the issue would be between the court and the government. “Nothing can prevent the court from perusing a document to decide its legality,” the CJ observed. He recalled the case of Sheela Barse, a journalist, whose letter on alleged torture of women prisoners in Mumbai was taken up as PIL plea by the Supreme Court.

The journalist later decided to withdraw the plea but the Supreme Court rejected that and went ahead with the hearing on the matter since it involved public interest, the CJ explained. As the AG said he had to take instructions on producing the Cabinet decision copy “since it was in State’s possession”, the Bench said the government was duty-bound to present the decision.

Requirements of law

Otherwise, the court would have to draw adverse inference against the government, the Bench noted. “There are some professional courtesies and requirements of law” for adjudication of petitions, the Bench said. When Additional Advocate General J. Ramchander Rao said he wanted to raise preliminary objections over the PIL plea, the CJ asked him to file a counter affidavit first.

With the AAG trying to explain his contention, the CJ made it clear that the Bench was not bound by law to listen to him unless the counter was filed. Amid the crisis of ongoing RTC strike, the Cabinet’s decision further agitated the minds of not only the trade unions but also of people at large, the Bench said in its order.

“To prevent any further deterioration in the situation, the government is directed not to take any steps which would precipitate the situation,” the order said.

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2019 3:47:27 PM |

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