New Delhi, Apr 20: The Supreme Court today imposed an exemplary punitive cost of Rs. five lakhs on the state of Karnataka for indulging in frivolous and malafide litigation to stall the implemention of mega Bangalore-Mysore highway corridor project worth about Rs. 2250 crores.
It was a stern warning to those blocking developmental projects in the name of public interest including politicians and the state.
A bench comprising Mrs. Justice Ruma Pal, Mr. Justice B.N.
Srikrishna and Mr. Justice Dalveer Bhandari dismissed the appeals filed by the state of Karnataka, by landowners and JD (S) MLA J.C. Madhuswamy and others and directed that the project must be implemented without further delay.
The court while directing the state of Karnataka to pay the cost to M/S Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises Ltd.(NICE) within four weeks also imposed a cost of Rs. 50,000 on MLA Madhuswamy which is to be paid to Supreme Court Legal Services Authority within four weeks.
The court held that the present petitions were also barred by res judicata as the controversy had already been finally decided by this court in 1998 in Somashekar Reddy case and can not be reopened through these frivolous petitions.
Under the project state government amended the law and NICE was to acquire about 20,193 acres of land which included 6956 acres of government land and 13,237 acres of private land. Nandi was to develop the express highway connecting Bangalore to Mysore and five townships were also be developed for industrial progress of the state.
A chief engineer Somashekar Reddy filed a writ in the high court alleging fraud by Nandi to make huge profits through real estate business as land was acquired in excess of requirements and a CBI inquiry was also sought into the scandal.
The high court dismissed the petitions and appeals were dismissed by the Supreme court in liminie.
The state of Karnataka vehemently opposed the petitions and supported Nandi. NICE was to bear all the expenses from its own resources and was permitted to charge toll for thirty years to recover the costs and profits. The trouble started in 2004 when former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda wrote a letter to his son H.D. Revanna, who was minister for public works department in Karnataka, making serious allegations in respect of the project alleging that it was a charade by which Nandi had converted it into a real estate business and the project required reconsideration.
The state of Karnataka did a volte face and started opposing the NICE.
The draft of Framework Agreement (FWA) was signed on April 3, 1997. The Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Act 1966(KIAD Act) was amended to facilitate acquisition of land in larger public interest.
The Karnataka high court ordered prosecution of the then chief secretary K.K. Misra and M. Shivalingaswamy, under secretary department of industries and commerce for perjury for filling false affidavits. The separate appeals are pending in the apex court filed by Misra and another.
The court while concurring with the high court observed," We do not think that project of this magnitude and urgency can be held up by individuals raising frivolous and untenable objections thereto.
The powers under the KIAD Act represent the powers of eminent domain vested in the state ,which may need to be exercised even to the detriment of individuals property rights so long as it achieves a larger public purpose.Looking at the case as a whole, we are satisfied that the project is intended to represent the larger public interest of the state and that is why it was entered into and implemented all along." The project is to provide express highway linking Bangalore with Mysore and for developing infrastructure along the corridor and in and around Bangalore city. The present express highway is about 100 years old and has become incapable of handling the heavy volume of vehicular traffic.