New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday permitted former Kerala minister Thomas Chandy to withdraw his appeal against a Kerala High Court order criticising him for filing a petition against his own government and encroaching government land. He had to quit after the HC rejected his plea. A Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao allowed the SLP to withdrawn after senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi for the petitioner submitted that since Mr Chandy is no longer a minister, he must be allowed to seek remedy afresh in the HC which has not dealt with the issue on merits.
Initially, Justice Bobde orally observed that as a minister he was bound by the government’s decision and asked if he can prevent the district collector from discharging her statutory functions. When his counsel said petitioner was no longer a minister, and the matter has to be decided on merits, the Bench while permitting withdrawal of the SLP gave liberty to the petitioner to file a fresh petition in the HC. Mr Chandy who had been facing allegations that his company had violated rules to construct a parking area and a road through a paddy field to his Lake Palace resort in Alappuzha district had questioned the report filed by the district collector pointing out the violations.
The report said they found large-scale violations of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, in his luxury lake resort. The HC slammed him saying a cabinet minister approaching a court against the state government - the district collector in this case - goes against the constitutional principle of collective responsibility of the cabinet. The present appeal is against this order. Mr Chandy denied that he was the owner of the lands in question where there was a violation. He said the enquiry conducted by the collector was clearly in the exercise of statutory functions and not executive powers. His grievance was that the collector had rendered a finding arbitrarily and maliciously without giving him an opportunity.
He pointed out that Section 13 of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy and Wetland Act 2008 mandated opportunity of hearing to the petitioner. He said the collector's report received extensive media publicity and as a minister and he had to resign. The HC failed to appreciate that he only challenged the manner in which the collector had exercised her statutory functions.
There is no prescription of a minister being in a private capacity seeking redressal in the court against the action of the authorities of the state. If the action is arbitrary and illegal, a minister cannot be precluded from filing a petition in the court, and the HC had erroneously faulted this. He said the interim reports of the collector wrongfully implicating him of violating the law had caused serious and irreparable harm to his reputation and a blow to his political career, he said and prayed for quashing the order.