Change of land use for noble cause not illegal: SC

Change of land use for a noble cause cannot be construed as an illegality as the purpose serves public interest, the Supreme Court has held.

Updated: Feb 20, 2011, 09:38 AM IST

New Delhi: Change of land use for a noble cause cannot be construed as an illegality as the purpose serves public interest, the Supreme Court has held.

A bench of justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma passed the ruling while setting aside a Bombay High Court judgement which quashed the allotment of land to a charitable trust on the ground it had changed the use of land contrary to the original purpose of allotment.

In this case, Pragati Mahila Mandal, a charitable trust, had constructed a hostel for girls and working women to provide accommodation at a nominal rent after it could not construct a girls` school, as promised, due to financial crunch.

The High Court acting on a PIL quashed the allotment since the land was leased by the Nanded Municipal Council for construction of a school for girls from poor families. It had asked the authorities to reclaim the land within eight weeks.

Aggrieved, the organisation appealed in the apex court.

Upholding the appeal, the apex court observed, "It is a matter of common knowledge that girls and women face lot of problems and difficulties in finding a suitable and safe accommodation when they go out of their own cities, to their respective schools or colleges or work-place.”

"If a hostel has been constructed for girls and working women, then it would definitely be for public or semi-public purpose and it cannot be said that there has been any deviation from the purposes for which the said plot was earmarked and allotted to the appellant."

In the judgement, Justice Verma said it was commendable that the organisation had taken the initiative of introducing progressive elements (through the establishment of counselling centres) in its efforts to alleviate some primary concerns of most working women.

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

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

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

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

PTI