Change of land use for noble cause not illegal: SC

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New Delhi, Feb 20 (PTI) Change of land use for a noblecause cannot be construed as an illegality as along as thepurpose serves public interest, the Supreme Court has held.

A bench of justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Vermapassed the ruling while setting aside a Bombay High Courtjudgement which quashed the allotment of land to a charitabletrust on the ground it had changed the use of land contrary tothe original purpose of allotment.

In this case Pragati Mahila Mandal, a charitabletrust, had constructed a hostel for girls and working women toprovide accommodation at a nominal rent after it could notconstruct a girls'' school, as promised, due to financialcrunch.

The High Court acting on a PIL quashed the allotmentsince the land was leased by the Nanded Municipal Council forconstruction of a school for girls from poor families. It hadasked the authorities to reclaim the land within eight weeks.

Aggrieved, the organisation appealed in the apexcourt.

Upholding the appeal, the apex court observed, "It isa matter of common knowledge that girls and women face lot ofproblems and difficulties in finding a suitable and safeaccommodation when they go out of their own cities, to theirrespective schools or colleges or work-place.

"If a hostel has been constructed for girls andworking women, then it would definitely be for public orsemi-public purpose and it cannot be said that there has beenany deviation from the purposes for which the said plot wasearmarked and allotted to the appellant."

In the judgement, Justice Verma said it wascommendable that the organisation had taken the initiative ofintroducing progressive elements (through the establishment ofcounselling centres) in its efforts to alleviate some primaryconcerns of most working women.

"It would be nothing short of a cruel twist ofjustice, if they are prevented from continuing to do so by aPIL, which is motivated by ulterior motives.

"In this regard, it is further necessary to mentionthat the provisions of Memorandum of Association of theappellant clearly state that one of the objectives of theappellant is to provide hostel facilities for girls andworking women. This further fortifies the stand of theappellant that it is public or at least semi-public purpose,"the bench said.

The apex court said the impugned judgement and orderpassed by the Division Bench cannot be sustained in law.

"It deserves to be set aside and quashed. Weaccordingly do so. The appeal is accordingly hereby allowed,"the bench said.

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