Improvement Trust, Bikaner Vs. Mohan Lal  INSC 1688 (30 October 2009)
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION SPECIAL LEAVE
PETITION[C] 29852 OF 2009 [CC NO.11768] Urban Improvement Trust, Bikaner ....
Petitioner Mohan Lal .....Respondent
O R D E R
The petitioner before us is the Bikaner Urban Improvement Trust.
It allotted a Plot (A-303) measuring 450 sq.ft. under its Karni Nagar Scheme to
the respondent in the year 1991. Respondent paid the allotment price (lease
premium) of Rs.3,443/- in 1992 and took possession in 1997. In the year 1998,
the petitioner-Trust allotted to respondents and delivered possession of the
adjacent strip measuring 150 ft.
Thereafter, the Trust without notice to the respondent and without
resorting to any acquisition proceedings, laid a road in the said plot. The
layout map prepared and made available by the Trust in the year 2002 did not
show 2 the existence of Plot A-303 or its adjoining strip.
aggrieved, the respondent met the officers of the Trust and complained to them.
He also gave a written complaint seeking restoration of the plot. As there was
no response, he approached the District Consumer Forum in 2005, praying for
restoration of the plot or for allotment of an alternative site and award of
damages of Rs.200,000/-. The District Forum disposed of the complaint directing
refund of the allotment price paid with interest at 9% per annum. The State
Commission allowed the appeal filed by the respondent and directed allotment of
an alternative plot and also awarded Rs.5,000/- as compensation. The National
Commission dismissed the revision petition filed by the petitioner Trust.
Special leave is sought to challenge the said order of the National Commission.
The Trust does not dispute any of the facts. It has no explanation
to offer for its negligence or highhanded action of taking over the allotted
plot without notice, acquisition, or consent. Nevertheless, the Trust
challenges the relief granted, on three technical grounds:
the respondent was negligent in protecting his possession and did not protest
or complain when the Trust laid the road in his plot, he is not entitled to any
action of the Trust, even if it was an illegal encroachment, did not amount to
`deficiency in service' and therefore the respondent could not invoke the
jurisdiction of the forum under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
complaint was barred by limitation as it was filed beyond two years from the
occurrence of the cause of action, and the respondent did not show sufficient
cause for condonation of delay.
contentions have been rejected. The decision of the State Commission rejecting
the above contentions is just and reasonable. The National Commission was
justified in not interfering with the said decision. We are satisfied that no
case is made out to grant special leave under Article 136 of the Constitution.
It is a matter of concern that such frivolous and unjust
litigation by governments and statutory authorities are on the increase.
Statutory Authorities exist to discharge statutory functions in public
interest. They should be responsible litigants. They cannot raise frivolous and
unjust objections, nor act in a callous and highhanded manner. They can not
behave like some private litigants with profiteering motives. Nor can they
resort to unjust enrichment. They are expected to show remorse or regret when
their officers act negligently or in an overbearing manner. When glaring wrong
acts by their officers is brought to their notice, 4 for which there is no explanation
or excuse, the least that is expected is restitution/restoration to the extent
possible with appropriate compensation. Their harsh attitude in regard to
genuine grievances of the public and their indulgence in unwarranted litigation
requires to be corrected.
This Court has repeatedly expressed the view that the governments
and statutory authorities should be model or ideal litigants and should not put
forth false, frivolous, vexatious, technical (but unjust) contentions to
obstruct the path of justice. We may refer to some of the decisions in this
Dilbagh Rai Jarry vs. Union of India [1973 (3) SCC 554] where this Court
extracted with approval, the following statement (from an earlier decision of
the Kerala High Court):
State, under our Constitution, undertakes economic activities in a vast and
widening public sector and inevitably gets involved in disputes with private
individuals. But it must be remembered that the State is no ordinary party
trying to win a case against one of its own citizens by hook or by crook; for
the State's interest is to meet honest claims, vindicate a substantial defence
and never to score a technical point or overreach a weaker party to avoid a
just liability or secure an unfair advantage, simply because legal devices
provide such an opportunity.
is a virtuous litigant and looks with unconcern on immoral forensic successes
so that if on the merits the case is weak, government shows a willingness to
settle the dispute regardless of 5 prestige and other lesser motivations which
move private parties to fight in court. The lay-out on litigation costs and
executive time by the State and its agencies is so staggering these days
because of the large amount of litigation in which it is involved that a
positive and wholesome policy of cutting back on the volume of law suits by the
twin methods of not being tempted into forensic show-downs where a reasonable
adjustment is feasible and ever offering to extinguish a pending proceeding on
just terms, giving the legal mentors of government some initiative and
authority in this behalf. I am not indulging in any judicial homily but only
echoing the dynamic national policy on State litigation evolved at a Conference
of Law Ministers of India way back in 1957.
Madras Port Trust v. Hymanshu International by its Proprietor v. Venkatadri
(Dead) by L.Rs. [(1979) 4 SCC 176] held:
It is high time that governments and public authorities adopt the practice of
not relying upon technical pleas for the purpose of defeating legitimate claims
of citizens and do what is fair and just to the citizens. Of course, if a
government or a public authority takes up a technical plea, the Court has to
decide it and if the plea is well founded, it has to be upheld by the court,
but what we feel is that such a plea should not ordinarily be taken up by a
government or a public authority, unless of course the claim is not
well-founded and by reason of delay in filing it, the evidence for the purpose
of resisting such a claim has become unavailable...."
5.3) In a
three Judge Bench judgment of Bhag Singh & Ors. v. Union Territory of
Chandigarh through LAC, Chandigarh [(1985) 3 SCC 737]:
"3... The State Government must do what is fair and just to the citizen
and should not, as far as possible, except in cases where tax or revenue is
received or recovered without protest or where the State Government would
otherwise be irretrievably be prejudiced, take up a technical plea to defeat
the legitimate and just claim of the citizen."
Unwarranted litigation by governments and statutory authorities
basically stem from the two general baseless assumptions by their officers.
claims against the government/statutory authorities should be viewed as illegal
and should be resisted and fought up to the highest court of the land.
taking a decision on an issue could be avoided, then it is prudent not to
decide the issue and let the aggrieved party approach the Court and secures a
reluctance to take decisions, or tendency to challenge all orders against them,
is not the policy of the governments or statutory authorities, but is
attributable to some officers who are responsible for taking decisions and/or
officers in charge of litigation.
reluctance arises from an instinctive tendency to protect themselves against
any future accusations of wrong decision making, or worse, of improper motives
for any decision making. Unless their insecurity and fear is addressed,
officers will continue to pass on the responsibility of decision making to
courts and 7 Tribunals. The Central Government is now attempting to deal with
this issue by formulating realistic and practical norms for defending cases
filed against the government and for filing appeals and revisions against
adverse decisions, thereby, eliminating unnecessary litigation. But, it is not
sufficient if the Central Government alone undertakes such an exercise. The
State Governments and the statutory authorities, who have more litigations than
the Central Government, should also make genuine efforts to eliminate
and unnecessary litigation have been clogging the wheels of justice, for too
long making it difficult for courts and Tribunals to provide easy and speedy
access to justice to bona fide and needy litigants.
In this case, what is granted by the State Commission is the
minimum relief in the facts and circumstances, that is to direct allotment of
an alternative plot with a nominal compensation of Rs.5000/- But instead of
remedying the wrong, by complying with the decision of the Consumer fora, the
Improvement Trust is trying to brazen out its illegal act by contending that
the allottee should have been protested when it illegally laid the road in his plot.
It has persisted with its unreasonable and unjust stand by indulging in
unnecessary litigation by approaching the National Commission and 8 then this
Court. The Trust should sensitise its officers to serve the public rather than
justify their dictatorial acts. It should avoid such an unnecessary litigation.
Delay condoned. The special leave petition is dismissed.
________________J. (R. V. RAVEENDRAN)
________________J. (G. S. SINGHVI)
October 30, 2009.