HC dismisses PIL in Bhopal Smart City Project case

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 14 Nov 2017 13:22:43

Legal Correspondent,

In the matter related to challenging the Bhopal Smart City Project on the ground that the same is being implemented in violation of Bhopal Development Plan 2005 and Nagar tatha Gram Niwesh Adhiniyam, the division bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising Chief Justice, Hemant Gupta and Justice, Vijay Kumar Shukla has dismissed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Munawwar Ali and 31 other persons from Bhopal, including Shabista Zaki, Corporator Word No- 24 of Bhopal Municipal Corporation. The division bench said that “we do not find any merit in the present writ petition. The same is dismissed”.

The petitioners, except the petitioner Shabista Zaki, Corporator of BMC, have invoked the writ jurisdiction of this court on the assertion that they are in adverse possession of the land in question and the respondents have carried out a massive demolition drive of the houses and shops of the petitioners and many others situated in the area of Krishna Nagar, Banganga Nagar, Tatya Tope Nagar (TT Nagar) and Ahata of Rustom Khan.

The assertion is that the residents are in possession since many years and have perfected their title by virtue of long and uninterrupted possession. The stand of the petitioners is that the respondent No.1 has launched a Smart City Mission project under which 100 cities were shortlisted to be developed as “Smart Cities”. Shivaji Nagar, Bhopal was selected for Area Based Development (ABD), which includes redevelopment of 333 acres of Government land at Shivaji Nagar situated between New Market and MP Nagar, Bhopal. The petitioner Shabista Zaki, Corporator has been impleaded in a representative capacity to represent the interest of other similarly situated persons being elected representative of local Municipal Corporation. The assertion is that the respondents have entirely changed the Smart City Plan, which was to be executed in Shivaji Nagar to Tatya Tope Nagar (TT Nagar).

The grievance of the petitioners is against the widening of road from Polytechnic Junction to Bharat Mata Square inter-alia on the ground that the petitioners have perfected their title over the said land by adverse possession and that, as per MP Nagar Tatha Gram Nivesh Adhiniyam, 1973, the use and development of land is required to conform to the provisions of the development plan prepared under the aforesaid Act. It is also mentioned that the development, regional, zonal plans are to be published in terms of the provisions of the Act of 1973 and that, such Act of 1973 occupies the field of land plan, land use and land development scheme. It is, thus, contended that Smart City Guidelines cannot override the Act of 1973 and cannot be enforced in the State of Madhya Pradesh.

It is also contended that in Bhopal Development Plan-2005, the width of the road between Polytechnic Junction to Bharat Mata Square is not specified, whereas the project has commenced and massive demolition drive has already been carried out. The Smart City Plan is being carried out de hors the Master plan (Bhopal Development Plan-2005). The petitioners have attached a Layout Plan of Bhopal Development Plan-2005 whereas, an information given under the Right to Information Act, 2005 is relied upon to contend that no width is mentioned of road from Polytechnic crossing to Bharat Mata crossing in Bhopal Development Plan-2005 but in respect of Capital development, the road is reflected as 24 meter (80 feet).

The division bench, in its order, said that we have examined the other argument in respect of existing road in Development Plan-2005. The sole issue is that in Development Plan- 2005, the road is shown as existing road and as per the petitioners; the width of the road cannot be extended than what actually exists on the spot on the date of publication of Development Plan-2005. On the other hand, stand of the State is that in Bhopal Development Plan-1991, published on November 14, 1975, the road of 35-40 meter width as sector road was planned and whereas in Bhopal Development Plan-2005, the proposed width of the roads has been mentioned at para 3.15 in Chapter-3. Clause 3.18 thereof pertains to second level artery road, which measures from 30-45 meters.

The division bench added that in the new urban areas, the same was proposed to be 45 meters whereas in the existing urban areas the width of the road was mentioned as 30-40 meters. It is the said road, which was mentioned in development plan “as existing road”. May be; the actual width of the road was not increased to 35-40 meters but it is a road, planned in Development Plan-1991. Therefore, the width of the road is not a new width, which is being carved out but the width, which was planned and published way back in 1975.

The division bench added that a perusal of Bhopal Development Plan-2005 at page Nos.73 and 74 of the response filed by the petitioners to the compliance report filed by respondent No.2 shows the traffic density on the existing roads. Column No.6 is existing width of the road. At Serial No.9 is the road from Polytechnic junction to Banganga. The existing width is mentioned as 30 meters. It is the said width of the road, which the respondents are wanting to construct road. Therefore, it cannot be said that Bhopal Development Plan- 2005 does not relate to the width of the road as 30 meters. It is so mentioned at pages 73 and 74 of the development plan produced by the petitioners themselves. Still further, the Smart City project has its components, including the Pan-city development, therefore, the development of a road to the width of 30 meters is part of the Development Plan-2005, therefore, it cannot be said that Smart City project is at variance with the development plan published under the Act applicable to the area.

The division bench added that the Act of 2013 has no applicability to the present case as the State is the owner of the land in question and as an owner, the State will not acquire its own land. The petitioners are unauthorised occupants over such land and therefore, they cannot claim to be the persons interested in the event of acquisition of the land. Thus, the submission of the counsel for the petitioners that they cannot be dispossessed as they are in possession of the land and the same has not been acquired in terms of the Act of 2013, is misconceived and is rejected.

The division bench added that, so far as the judgments of the Supreme Court rendered in K Ramadas Shenoy (supra); Chairman, Indore Vikas Pradhikaran (supra); Machavarapu Srinivasa Rao (supra); Rajendra Shankar Shukla (supra); and Ravindra Ramchandra Waghmare (supra) referred to by the counsel for the petitioners to contend that there cannot be any variation in the development plan unless such modifications and/or variations are approved in the manner contemplated by law.

There is no dispute with the proposition raised but Bhopal Development Plan-2005 itself has given width of the road as 30 metres, therefore, the respondents are well within the jurisdiction to construct road upto the width of 30 metres. Such construction of road upto the width of 30 metres is not contrary to Bhopal Development Plan-2005 but in accordance therewith. In view of the foregoing, we do not find any merit in the present writ petition. The same is dismissed, the division bench said.