‘Right to life encapsulates right to construction of road, even to a solitary villager’: Punjab and Haryana High Court to Gram Panchayat

Punjab and Haryana High Court

Punjab and Haryana High Court: In a petition seeking Writ of Mandamus for quashing directions of Revenue Collector to construct a rasta for one of the respondents who is allegedly an unauthorized occupant over lands owned and possessed by the Gram Panchayat Badaliyan, the Division Bench of Sureshwar Thakur* and Kuldeep Tiwari, JJ. dismissed the petition calling it ‘frivolous and generated by malafides’ and directed the expenses incurred in the institution of this petition to be borne by the Sarpanch and not the Gram Panchayat funds.

The Court through order dated 21-2-2023 had directed the responsible functionary to file an affidavit with a disclosure with respect to the exact portion of encroached upon Gair Mumkin Rasta and whether it falls within the jurisdiction of Gram Panchayat Badaliyan or Gram Panchayat Swar. In the said affidavit, it is clearly mentioned that the Gair Mumkin Rasta proposed to be constructed would serve the villagers of Gram Panchayat Badaliyan. Thus, the Court found the above argument insignificant and rejected.

The Court observed that even if the Gram Panchayat resisted the Collector’s directions, and even if the said revenue rasta may serve the sole interest of the said respondent, the Gram Panchayat is obliged to provide a revenue rasta to even a solitary villager. The Court pressed on right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India which encompasses State’s duty to purvey convenient access to even a singular homestead to enable its inhabitants in emergency situations.

The Court said that even if a single individual may be benefitted from the construction of revenue rasta at the instance of the Revenue Collector, it is not sufficient and well-informed reason for the Panchayat to resist compliance with orders of the Collector. The Court said that it would be a breach of the mandate of right to life enshrined in article 21 of the Constitution. The Court reiterated that “the constitutional mandate of right to life also encapsulates the right to construction of a road up to the homestead of any citizen for facilitating able ambulance services being purveyed to a citizen requiring emergent medical aid.”

The Court further expressed that if the Collector of the revenue district is funding the construction of the said rasta being constructed at the aegis of Gram Panchayat, it is the solemn duty of Panchayat to enable all villagers to be facilitated with an ambulance road. It said that it becomes more urgent when the Panchayat lands are meant for common purposes of the village proprietary body serving the purpose which tenably serves any member of the village proprietary body.

Thus, the Court dismissed the instant Writ Petition for being frivolous and generated by malafides, and directed that the expenses incurred in the institution of this petition shall not be borne from Gram Panchayat funds, but from the pockets of Sarpanch of the said Panchayat. The Court also imposed costs of Rs 50,000 on the petitioner to be deposited with the Treasurer of Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association.

[Gram Panchayat Badaliyan v. Financial Commissioner to Govt. Punjab, 2023 SCC OnLine P&H 474, decided on 8-5-2023]

Judgment by: Justice Sureshwar Thakur

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioner: Advocate C.L. Premy, Advocate Raman Rekhi, Advocate Navjot Kaur;

For Respondent: Senior Deputy Advocate General Monika Jalota, Advocate Mitul Singh Rana, Advocate A.K. Singh Goyat.

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