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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Stop allotting public properties on political interference: Karnataka HC directs govt.

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The High Court of Karnataka has directed the State government to forthwith stop issuing allotment orders of public properties, as special cases, as a product of favouritism or political interference.

“Allotment of public properties should be only by way of public auction as mandated in the law, and the present case would form the last straw of admonishing the State for bartering away public property at its whim and fancy,” the court said.

Justice M. Nagaprasanna issued the direction while allowing a petition filed by one Chandra Suvarna of Udupi.

The petitioner had questioned the legality of allotment of 700 sq. m of area on lease at Fish Conservation Centre in Malpe port for setting up a cold storage unit to one Santosh V. Salian based on two separate recommendations made by two MLAs from Udupi district.

‘Special cases’

However, the court noted from the official records that the Fisheries Department had rightly rejected the applications of both Mr. Suvarna and Mr. Salian stating that area can be allotted only by way of auction/tender. But one of them had knocked on the doors of political representatives and ultimately the area was allotted to one of them as “a special case”. The court also noticed that certain other area in the port was allotted to some other person as a “special case”.

Records in this case “demonstrate that is has become a norm for the State to act upon political interference in granting public properties, as special cases, to the favoured lot”, the court observed.

Not ‘rule of men’

“It needs no emphasis that the State is governed by ‘rule of law’ and not by ‘rule of men’. A few men at the helm of affairs or the powers that be, cannot be seen to act in a manner that would thwart the rule of law and generate a concept “you show me the person; I will tell you the law”. This court would not permit the State government to act in a partisan manner in favour of any applicant,” observed Mr. Justice Nagaprasanna.

As there are a number of public properties which can be leased out to entrepreneurs, the court said there should be uniformity in the grant of such land. “Uniformity will come about only when there is transparency in the procedure. And transparency can come about only when the properties are put to public auction and every citizen is permitted to participate,” the court said.

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