Decided on July 22,2016

The Energy And Resources Institute Appellant
Suhrid Sudarshan Shah And Ors. Respondents


- (1.) Leave granted.
(2.) Respondent No.1 (Suhrid Sudarshan Shah) had filed Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India before the High Court of Uttarakhand at Nainital in the nature of public interest litigation against the State of Uttarakhand and the Director of Horticulture and Food Processing, to question the allotment of orchards belonging to the State on lease for a period of 25 years to private parties without following auction process. Reliefs claimed in the said Writ Petition (PIL) No.600 (M/B) of 2003 read thus: PRAYER i) It is, therefore most respectfully prayed that this Hon'ble Court may graciously be pleased to allow this petition and issue:- ii) Writ Rule, Order or direction in the nature of mandamus commanding and directing the respondents not to implement the decision/policy of the government to handover 77 government orchards to the private person. iii) Writ, Rule, Order or direction in the nature of mandamus declaring or rendering the government action/policy, or handing over of 77 government orchards to private persons, void and unconstitutional. iv) Any other relief, which this Hon'ble Court may deem fit and proper in the circumstances of this case. v) To award the cost to the petitioners. This Writ Petition was summarily dismissed by the Division Bench of the High Court on 30th August 2003. The Court noted that the short point to be decided in the Writ Petition was whether 74 orchards or any of them were making profit, as alleged. The Division Bench opined that the writ petitioner had failed to provide any details in that regard in the Writ Petition. On the other hand, the State furnished a chart based on Profit and Loss Account of the orchards, which was taken on record. The factual position stated therein having remained uncontroverted, the Division Bench summarily dismissed the Writ Petition in limine.
(3.) The respondent No.1 carried the matter to this Court by way of S.L.P.(Civil) No. 23707/2003 (converted into C.A. No. 4629/2006). In that appeal, the State was called upon to file counter affidavit before this Court, wherein, it was, inter-alia, contended by the State as follows: "(1) That a total area of 1380.254 Hectare comprised in 104 Government orchards have been dismissed, the estimated value whereof would be about Rs.138 crores. (2) The State of Uttaranchal has allegedly taken a purported policy decision in terms whereof Public Private partnership was sought to be resorted to with a view to attract more investment and provide new avenues of employment for local people and for betterment of the economic condition of the public in general and the Government. (3) With the private investment coming in these orchards the benefit thereof would also pass to the local people. Moreover, other horticultural activities like medicinal and herbal plants, tea, sericulture and other high value land based operations are proposed to be taken upon these lands/orchards in future." With reference to this plea, this Court vide judgment dated August 30, 2006 opined that the matter required consideration afresh by the High Court. In that, the High Court in the first place ought to consider the question as to whether on the admissions made by the State, the purported policy to lease out such valuable lands on nomination basis was in public interest or not, keeping in mind the exposition in the case of Ramana Dayaram Shetty vs. International Airports Authority of India & Ors., 1979 3 SCC 489. The Court noted that since the nominees were not before the Court, the High Court should give opportunity to them before finally deciding the matters in issue. This Court, accordingly, was pleased to set aside the High Court order and remanded the Writ Petition to the High Court for fresh consideration in accordance with law.;

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