Bennett Coleman and Co, Syndicate Bank get similar relief, petitioner Manyata Residents’ Association ordered to compensate all three CA site allottees
After a decade-long litigation, public sector natural gas company GAIL will finally be able to set up its office on land allotted to it by the Bangalore Development Authority.
Overturning an earlier order of a single judge, the Karnataka High Court on February 26 allowed the appeals of GAIL as well as Bennett Coleman and Company Ltd and Syndicate Bank in the matter. It also imposed costs on the petitioner, Manyata Residents’ Association, to be paid to each of the three allottees.
Facts of the case
Briefly stating the facts of the case, the developer, Manyata Promoters Private Limited, had formed a residential layout in about 82 acres of land at Rachenahalli, Bengaluru East taluk. As per the layout plan, areas earmarked as Civic Amenity sites, open spaces and roads were relinquished by the developer in favour of the BDA. The BDA allotted CA sites No. 5 and 6 to GAIL for the purpose of establishing its office and Regional Gas Management Centre, CA sites No. 2A and 2B to Bennett Coleman and Company Limited and CA site No. 4 to Syndicate Bank.
After hearing the petitioner, Manyata Residents’ Association, the single judge held that the allotments were in violation of the BDA Act and 1989 Rules and quashed the lease deeds executed in favour of the allottees as well as the possession certificates.
Hearing the appeals of BDA and the allottees, Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice NS Sanjay Gowda said reliance could be placed on a decision of Justice Shantanagoudar in the case of Bhavani Housing Co-operative Society Limited versus BDA (2006).WA2872_2013_05032021
Both Nagarathna and Gowda opined that the BDA has the power to transfer any area reserved for civic amenities for the purpose for which such area is reserved. An area reserved for a civic amenity shall not be sold or otherwise disposed of for any other purpose, and if so disposed of shall be null and void. This is the first mode under which BDA has the power to transfer an area reserved for a civic amenity.
Interestingly, both the judges said as far as the allotment of the CA site to Bennett Coleman and Company Limited was concerned, the lease agreement cites Government Order No.UDD/262/Bem.Bhu.Swa-2009 dated 17.12.2009. On the basis of the said Order, made under Section 65 of the BDA Act, BDA had allotted the site to Bennett Coleman and Company Limited.
The judges inter alia said, “The writ petitioners have contended that the said allotment is contrary to the 1989 Rules. But we have examined the said Rules and we have held that those Rules are not applicable to an entity such as Bennett Coleman & Company as it is not an ‘institution’ within the meaning of Rule 2(d) of the 1989 Rules, which apply only to the allotment of sites to an ‘institution’. But, de hors the said Rules, there could be an allotment made on the strength of Section 65 of the BDA Act. In fact, sub-Rule (2) of Rule 3 makes that position amply clear inasmuch as it states that, subject to Section 38-A and general or special orders of the Government, a civic amenity site could be allotted on the basis of the said Rules to any institution. That means any civic amenity site could be leased to an entity even though it is not an ‘institution’ within the meaning of Rule 2(d) of the 1989 Rules.
“It is stated that the object of seeking allotment of a CA site in the instant case to Bennett Coleman and Company is to house the Times Foundation, which is a philanthropic, charitable organisation, apart from the offices of the Times of India group. Therefore, we do not find any illegality in the allotment of the site to Bennett Coleman and Company Limited.”
In respect of Syndicate Bank, the judges said, “The civic amenity site allotted to Syndicate Bank is as per site Allotment Letter dated 13.10.2010 and site No. 2 (2A and 2B) has been leased on 30.12.2010 for a period of thirty years. The allotment made to Syndicate Bank cannot be questioned as such, as a bank is a civic amenity within the meaning of Section 2(bb) of the BDA Act. It may be that Syndicate Bank will house its corporate office on the said site. However, it is stated that it will also have a branch office and ATM facility, which would be for the benefit of the residents and other establishments in the locality. Therefore, we do not understand as to how the petitioners could assail the allotment of site No.2 (2A, 2B) to Syndicate Bank. Syndicate Bank, being a nationalised bank, is a civic amenity within the meaning of Section 2(bb)(i) of the BDA Act and the allotment could be traced to Section 38-A of the BDA Act.”
In respect of GAIL, the judges said, “As far as allotment of civic amenity sites No. 5 and 6 to GAIL is concerned, the contention is that the purpose of allotment is not for a civic amenity and the same does not fall within the meaning of Section 2(bb) of the BDA Act and there has been no reservation made under Rule 3(1) of the 1989 Rules.
“In this regard, the contention is that GAIL is neither a Central government nor a State government office. But, counsel for GAIL drew our attention to the proceedings that took place between the state and Central governments under which, by Government Order dated 10.07.2009, the Government of Karnataka constituted the Apex-Level Coordination Group (COG) for overseeing the implementation of the Dabhol-Bengaluru (Bidadi) Gas Pipeline Project.…The Principal Secretary to Government of Karnataka, Infrastructure Development Department, wrote to the Chief Commissioner, BDA to allot suitable land/sites for the purpose of the project to GAIL…The object of the allotment is to house a Centre (office) for monitoring the project.
“Therefore, what was to be housed in the civic amenity site leased to GAIL is a Management Centre. In what way the location of the said office has prejudiced the rights of the petitioners has not been pleaded by the petitioners.”
‘Single judge not right’
Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice NS Sanjay Gowda said inter alia, “Learned single judge has misdirected himself in considering the eligibility of the allottees to be allotted the civic amenity sites and the purpose of allotment in terms of the 1989 Rules, which we have held do not apply to these allotments in the present cases. Consequently, the learned single judge was also not right in holding that the petitioners had the locus standi to challenge the
Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice NS Sanjay Gowda allowed appeals with costs being imposed on the petitioners, saying inter alia, “Without having a right to challenge the allotment of civic amenity sites in these cases and not being able to establish any illegality in the allotment of sites in these cases, the petitioners filed these writ petitions. The litigation has been pending for a decade in this court. The allottees have paid a lease amount in crores to the BDA…over a decade has been lost in litigation before this court. The uncertainty caused to the allottees on account of this frivolous litigation and not being able to make use of the sites for over a decade must be compensated. In the circumstances, the writ petitioners are directed to pay a sum of Rs.1 lakh to each of the allottees, namely Syndicate Bank, Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) and Bennett Coleman and Company Limited.”