New Delhi: In a breather for union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, the Supreme Court on Friday set aside a Karnataka High Court direction to the Bangalore Development Authority to repossess a residential plot allotted to him.
An apex court bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice S.A. Bobde also held that Gowda did not exercise his influence as Karnataka`s deputy leader of opposition and later as chief minister to arm-twist the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) or Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to decide in his favour.
The court rejected the contention that Gowda being an influential politician, and also the chief minister at the relevant point of time, could have made it impossible for any of the statutory authorities to come to any conclusion adverse to his interest despite an ex facie and egregious violation of lease agreement sanction building plan.
"It is difficult to accept such a blanket and free-wheeling submission, particularly in the absence of any material on record," the court said.
"This is not to say that in no circumstance can a statutory body not be influenced by a politician who has considerable clout. A lot depends on the facts of each case and the surrounding circumstances," the court said.
Having said so, the court pointed out: "Insofar as the present case is concerned, in spite of the clout that Gowda may have wielded in Karnataka, his actions relating to the construction of the building on his plot of land do not suggest any abuse...", said Justice Lokur while pronouncing the judgment.
"It is difficult to assume... that Gowda exercised his influence as the chief minister of Karnataka to arm-twist the BBMP since the inspection report was not entirely in his favour," the judgment said.
Allowing appeals against the high court order by Gowda and former state civil supplies minister D.N. Jeevaraj that had held that construction at the plot was in violation of the terms and conditions of the lease agreement, the court said the high court order was not sustainable in law.
"... Whichever way the decision of the high court is looked at, in our opinion, the conclusions arrived at and the directions given are not sustainable in law and are set aside", said the court as it allowed the appeals by Gowda and Jeevaraj.
"In our opinion, the high court was in error in coming to the conclusion that the buildings constructed on the two plots were not in accordance with the sanctioned plan," Justice Lokur said.
"The buildings were and are still under construction and it is too early to say that there has been a violation of the sanctioned plan," the court said pointing out that no doubt there were some deviations as flagged by the BBMP but that could be "certainly be attended to by Gowda and Jeevaraj on the one hand and the BBMP on the other".
"The mere existence of some deviations in the buildings," the court said. "Does not lead to any definite conclusion that there is either a breach or a violation of condition of the lease-cum-sale agreement" that permits construction of dwelling units for human habitation only or the "building plan sanctioned by the BBMP".
Addressing the submission that Gowda being an influential politician could have influenced the decision of statutory authorities, the court said: "... it may be recalled that even when Gowda applied for amalgamation of his plot with that of Jeevaraj, he was an influential politician in Karnataka being the deputy leader of the opposition" yet Bangalore Development Authority rejected the request of amalgamating his plot with that Jeevaraj`s plot.
Citing another instance, the court said even when Gowda was Karnataka chief minister, BBMP carried out inspection of the construction at his plot and found some deviation from sanctioned building plan. BBMP then told the high court that "an occupancy certificate would be issued only after the BBMP is satisfied that the construction is in accordance with law".
The court said this while answering in negative the questions whether Gowda and Jeevaraj have per se violated the terms of the lease-cum-sale agreement that they have individually entered into with the Bangalore Development Authority by constructing a multi-storeyed residential building on the plots allotted to them.
The alternative question, addressed by the court was "whether the construction made by them is contrary to the plan sanctioned by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike and thereby violated the lease-cum-sale agreement with the BDA".
"In our opinion, both the questions are required to be answered in the negative. There has been no violation of the lease-cum-sale agreement or the sanction plan for construction such as to violate the lease-cum-sale agreement with the BDA," the bench said in its judgment.