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Courts should not seek to run governments under the guise of judicial review

Courts should not seek to run governments under the guise of judicial review

Gopal Vs State of Karnataka

Karnataka HC


Writ Appeal No. 100139 of 2022 (LA-RES)

About/from the judgment:

The High Court dismissed pleas challenging the acquisition of land for the implementation of the Upper Krishna Project (UKP) which was for the avowed public purpose of irrigating large tracts of land in various districts of North Karnataka.

The Court opined that when a measure was taken by the government pursuant to a policy framed with the opinion of experts, the Court should refrain from acting like a super-accountant, and interference should be extremely rare.

“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. 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 weal,” the court said.

In its judgment, the Court took note that the UKP was conceived on account of severe droughts affecting large parts of North Karnataka. In 2010, the Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal had called for an increase in the height of the River's dam. This, it was noted, would submerge large parts of land in the Northern part of the State.

The notifications under challenge were issued to establish townships in order to rehabilitate and resettle people who were going to be displaced on account of such flooding.

They were first challenged before a single-judge, who dismissed the petitions. Aggrieved by the dismissal, this appeal was filed.

The appellants had challenged the acquisition of their land on the ground that it was not supported by “public purpose” and was, in fact, colourable exercise of power.

In this regard, the Court said that the declaration of “public purpose” in the acquisition notification was final, except in the rare case where colourable exercise of such power or fraud on power is demonstrated before a Constitutional Court.

“There is absolutely no material to support the contention that the acquisition is colourable exercise of power and therefore, illegal,” it recorded.

It was also argued that the statement of objections filed by the appellants was not considered.

However, the Court found that the objections were extremely bald and general in nature, lacking specificity, and incapable of being dealt with by the competent authority.

The Bench emphasised that its intervention was called for only when violation of the constitutional right of a citizen was demonstrated.

The Court went on to say that it could not 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 or whether the project could have been implemented satisfactorily at another location.

“Such an exercise by us would tantamount to substituting our views to that of the State which has the advantage of expert advice.”

It was acknowledged that there may be some errors or some minor infractions, but these would exist in any human endeavour, and were inevitable.

“But, we are conscious that it is not for us to do nit picking and smell foul-play at mere whiff of a suggestion,” the judgment stated.

With this, the appeals were dismissed.

Read the Judgment


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