Justice Kurian Joseph refuses to hear Thomas Chandy case

Third SC judge to recuse from the case.

New Delhi: Justice Kurian Joseph of the Supreme Court also recused from hearing the appeal filed by former Kerala minister Thomas Chandy against a Kerala High Court order criticising him or filing a petition against his own government and encroaching government land. He had to quit after the High Court rejected his plea. When the matter came up for admission before a Bench of Justices Joseph and Amitav Roy, Justice Joseph told the counsel that he was not hearing the matter. He did not disclose the reasons.

On January 15 Justice Sapre said that he was recusing from the case without giving any reason. It may be recalled that letters were sent to the Bench requesting Justice Sapre to recuse from the case and later this letter was withdrawn. Following the recusal, a new Bench will hear this matter. Earlier Justice A.M. Kanwilkar had recused and Kurian Joseph is the third one not inclined to hear the matter. 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 the luxury lake resort owned by Mr. Chandy. The High Court 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. In his special leave petition, Mr. Chandy said the High Court had made the mistake in applying the principle of collective responsibility of Council of Ministers, which is entirely irrelevant and extraneous for adjudicating the real issue raised in the writ petition.

Mr. Chandy denied that he was the owner of the lands in question where there was violation. He said the enquiry conducted by the collector was clearly in 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 wide media publicity and as a minister he had to resign his post. The High Court failed to appreciate that he only challenged the manner in which the collector had exercised 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. The petitioner submitted that a good reputation is an element of personal security and protected by the Constitution equally with the right to enjoyment of life, liberty and property. When a dent is created in the reputation, humanism is paralysed and it is no answer for the High Court to say that he was not prejudiced and that he could redeem his dignity later by approaching the Collect-or, he said and prayed for quashing the High Court order and an interim stay of its operation.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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