Having collected funds from Public for developing Roads, Government is not at liberty to back out [JUDGMENT]

Road Development - Having taken a decision and having collected funds also for developing the road, the State Government is not at liberty to back out from the project, since the projects are still in force.


The State Government, and all other stake-holders interested in the development of Kochi city ought to have taken emergent steps in order to complete the project envisioned by the State Government as per Ext.P6 order. It is also clear that the Government have started to collect Rs.1/- additionally in the sale of Petrol and Diesel in order to pool the fund for the Projects envisioned under Ext.P6. Therefore, having collected the said fund, the State Government should have made every effort and endeavour to implement the project in a faster pace in order to ventilate the grievances of the residents of Kochi city, and other people visiting Kochi. It is quite disheartening to note from the report submitted by the District Collector, that the PWD had decided not to take up the project. However, having taken a decision as per Ext.P6 and having collected funds also for developing the road in question, the State Government is not at liberty to back out from the project, since the projects as per Ext.P6 are still in force.The project shall be completed by the State Government with the aid, assistance and co-operation of the stake-holders viz., the Kochi Corporation, the Greater Cochin Development Authority and the Kerala Road Fund Board, at the earliest possible time, and at any rate, within one year from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment. The writ petition is disposed of accordingly.

Road Development - Charging additional sales tax at the rate of Rs.1/- per litre against the sale of petrol and diesel - When such activities are agreed to be undertaken by the State Government and many people have surrendered their rights over very valuable properties and the works accordingly are carried out partly, the Government attempting to resile from the activity is nothing but a clog on the fair public administration, thereby rendering the inaction to execute the promise arbitrary and illegal. 

Road Development - Promise extended by the Government to the public - the failure on the part of the Government and other stake-holders to discharge the obligations, is nothing short of criminal breach of promise.

Facts of the Case

The Thammanam - Pulleppady road is one of the roads through which traffic congestion can be avoided in the city of Kochi. It is also evident that, many of the residents of the locality have co-operated with the implementation of the project by surrendering valuable lands in the prime location of Kochi city, free of cost. It is also evident from Ext.P6 order of the State Government specified above that the road is included in the Implementation of District Flagship Infrastructure Projects, and in order to accelerate the projects, the fund is met from the 50% share of Additional Sales Tax collected at the rate of Rs.1 per litre of Petrol/Diesel sold within the State, and this 50% share is expected to be Rs.200 Crores per annum. A total project cost of Rs.300 Crores is ordered to the road in question. However, in spite of all these developments taken place, nothing material has taken place to implement the project, other than widening the road wherever the public have surrendered the land free of cost.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM
PRESENT THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE SHAJI P.CHALY
WEDNESDAY, THE 22ND DAY OF MAY 2019 / 1ST JYAISHTA, 1941
WP(C).No. 33103 of 2016
PETITIONER/S:
DR. PRIYARENJINI S., CONSULTANT NEUROLOGIST, CC 55-1636B, VRINDAVANAM, KADAVANTHRA, KOCHI-682 020.
BY ADVS. DR.K.P.PRADEEP SMT.T.THASMI SRI.SANAND RAMAKRISHNAN
RESPONDENT/S:
1 THE STATE OF KERALA, REPRESENTED BY ITS SECRETARY (PUBLIC WORKS), GOVERNMENT SECRETARIAT, THIRUVANANTHAUPRAM-695001.
2 DISTRICT COLLECTOR, ERNAKULAM, CIVIL STATION, KAKKANAD, ERNAKULAM-682030.
3 CORPORATION OF KOCHI, REPRESENTED BY ITS SECRETARY, CORPORATION OFFICE, PARK AVENUE ROAD, ERNAKULAM-682011.
4 GREATER COCHIN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, REPRESENTED BY ITS SECRETARY, GCDA OFFICE, KADAVANTHRA, KOCHI, ERNAKULAM-682020.
5 KERALA ROAD FUND BOARD, TC 4/1654, MAYOORAM, BELHAVEN GARDENS, KOWDIAR P.O., THIRUVANANTHAPURAM-695003.
BY ADVS. R1 & R2 - SMT. LATHA T. THANKAPPAN, SPECIAL GOVERNMENT PLEADER R3 - SRI.S.CHANDRASENAN, SC, COCHIN CORPORATION R4 - SRI. ARUN ANTONY, SC
J U D G M E N T
Petitioner, a resident of Kochi, has filed this writ petition seeking direction to the respondents i.e., the State of Kerala, the District Collector, Ernakulam, Corporation of Kochi, the Greater Cochin Development Authority and the Kerala Road Fund Board, to complete the widening of Thammanam-Pulleppady road as per the stipulations contained under Ext.P6 order of the State Government dated 10.06.2015 brought out for the implementation of District Flagship Infrastructure Projects (DFIP) to accelerate Infrastructure Development in the State of Kerala and according sanction thereto, and for other related reliefs. Brief material facts for the disposal of the writ petition are as follows:


2. Kochi city is one of the most congested cities within the State which requires proper and sufficient attention from the public authorities for the improvement and development of its infrastructures. Under the 2009 Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) Scheme, the Central Urban Development Ministry identified Kochi as one of the “One Million Populated Cities” in the country, which requires special attention for infrastructure development. Kochi is also selected as one among the 100 Indian cities for the “Smart City Mission Project” piloted by the Central Government, during the year 2015.
3. Years back, the local body viz., the Cochin Corporation as well as the State Government have identified a project for widening of Thammanam- Pulleppady road into four lane traffic to augment eastwest connectivity in the Kochi city, which is one among the key solutions for de-congesting the existing Sahodaran Ayyappan Road, i.e., the road leading from the South Junction to the Vyttila and Banerji road, i.e., Ernakulam North to Edappally. As per the Scheme formulated by the State Government, the project requires a total cost of Rs.263 Crores for widening about 3.5 Kilometres of road with 22 metres of wide stretch and requires acquisition of land having an extent of 4.0163 Hectares.
4. According to the petitioner, an amount of Rs.25 Crores was allotted in the year 2011 for land acquisition and another amount of Rs.25 Crores was allotted in the year 2015 for completing the land acquisition for the project. That being so, in the year 2015, as per Ext.P6 order, the State Government have included the Thammanam-Pulleppady Road widening under the District Flagship Infrastructures Projects having an estimated cost of Rs.300 Crores and Administrative Sanction was accordingly issued. The fund for meeting the project cost is being collected by the State Government from the public through a newly introduced Cess/Additional Sales Tax of Rs.1/- per litre collected from the sale of Petrol and Diesel in the State.
5. The case projected by the petitioner is that, even though sufficient funds are collected from the public, the project is being protracted and the delay in implementing the project is causing substantial injuries and hardships to the petitioner as well as other inhabitants of the Kochi city. Therefore, the sum and substance of the contention put forth by the petitioner is that, having collected fund from the Infrastructure Development as per Ext.P6 and not expending the same for the project envisioned, the action of the State Government, the local body and other stake-holders are arbitrary and illegal, liable to be interfered with by this Court, failing which, the difficulties and inconveniences faced by the people visiting Kochi city will aggravate due to traffic congestion in the city.


6. A report is filed by the District Collector, Ernakulam, i.e., the 2nd respondent, dated 28.09.2017, in accordance with the directions issued by this Court, wherein the details with respect to the widening required, the acquisition necessitated and the fund for the project are put forth. Among other aspects, it is stated that, the proposal for widening the road was included in the Budget Speech as Sl.No.34 and Stimulus Package-II as Sl.No.91 for an amount of Rs.10 Crores. It is also pointed out that, the road length is 2.25 Kms., and the ownership of the road is vested with the Kochi Corporation. That apart, it is stated that, part of the aforesaid stretch is available for widening consequent to free surrender of land made by the property owners on either side of the said existing road, and altogether 94 persons have surrendered their land free of cost, and the extent so surrendered is 1.1934 Hectares. It is further stated that, an extent of 4.0163 Hectares of land is yet to be acquired in order to complete the project, and for that purpose, an amount of Rs.298 Crores is required. Therefore, the sum and substance put forth by the 2nd respondent is that, unless and until the acquisition is completed, the 22 metres width road envisaged cannot be completed.
7. It is also pointed out that, as per the estimate prepared for land acquisition works in four Villages within the limits of the Kochi Corporation an amount of Rs.136 Crores is required, i.e., excluding the amount already allotted and an additional amount of Rs.111 Crores will be needed for the entire acquisition process. It is further reported that the major portion of the structures coming under the acquired land had been demolished by the Corporation. So much so, it is stated, the Government have accorded Principal Sanction for Rs.3771.47 Crores for improving major roads in each Districts as part of implementation of the District Flagship Infrastructure Project for 21 roads, evident from Ext.P6. Pulleppady-Thammanam road is included in that project and sanction is accorded for Rs.300 Crores as per the Government Order dated 10.06.2015, and Administrative Sanction for an amount of Rs.10 Crores has been obtained as per the Government Order dated 01.11.2016 and the project is taken for implementation under “Infrastructure Development Works-Special Investment Scheme” (Anti Recession Package) funded by KIIFB.
8. It is further pointed out that, in the meanwhile, the Kochi Corporation has decided to entrust the remaining acquisition works with PWD Roads due to lack of fund and the matter was brought to the notice of the Minister for PWD, in a meeting held by the Public Works Department on 14.07.2017. However, no decision was taken. But fact remains, in a meeting held in the presence of the Member of Parliament of Ernakulam Parliamentary Constituency and MLA of the Assembly Constituency dated 22.07.2017, the Minister for PWD has stated that the PWD do not intent to undertake the work of widening of the road in question.
9. I have heard Dr. K.P. Pradeep, learned counsel for the petitioner and Smt. Latha T. Thankappan, learned Special Government Pleader appearing for respondents 1 and 2, and perused the pleadings and the documents on record.
10. In my considered view, the Thammanam- Pulleppady road is one of the roads through which traffic congestion can be avoided in the city of Kochi. It is also evident that, many of the residents of the locality have co-operated with the implementation of the project by surrendering valuable lands in the prime location of Kochi city, free of cost. It is also evident from Ext.P6 order of the State Government specified above that the road is included in the Implementation of District Flagship Infrastructure Projects, and in order to accelerate the projects, the fund is met from the 50% share of Additional Sales Tax collected at the rate of Rs.1 per litre of Petrol/Diesel sold within the State, and this 50% share is expected to be Rs.200 Crores per annum. A total project cost of Rs.300 Crores is ordered to the road in question. However, in spite of all these developments taken place, nothing material has taken place to implement the project, other than widening the road wherever the public have surrendered the land free of cost.
11. It is a common feature and known to everybody that Kochi city is congested due to heavy increase of traffic including heavy vehicles which are also passing through the city limits in order to cater the needs of the Vallarpadam Project Container Terminal etc. etc. So also, many of the godowns, major market and other Clearing and Forwarding Agents are situated within Kochi Corporation, and therefore, heavy vehicles are also to be taken in and out of the city limits. Even though there are a few roads and bridges developed in order to divert the traffic from the city to the National Highway and other roads, still there is huge traffic congestion at peak hours of the day, and therefore, the only way out is development of the roads from the city to the Highway and other broader roads situated in and around Kochi city.


12. Furthermore, due to the traffic congestion and emission from the vehicles, environmental issues are also faced by the people apart from other issues like wasting fuel, accidents and delay to meet up with emergent situations. The respondents shall also bear in mind that the investments made for development of roads will attain fruitful results in future. The State Government is also duty bound to discharge the duties and obligations undertaken by it as per Ext.P6 order published in the Gazette, treating it as a promise extended by the Government to the public. So also, it has the characteristics of a firm offer made by the Government to the public to carry out certain functions with the co-operation of the public by charging additional sales tax at the rate of Rs.1/- per litre against the sale of petrol and diesel. The public have thus accepted the said offer by paying the additional tax, and therefore, the State Government is not at liberty to withdraw from the offer. Moreover, when such activities are agreed to be undertaken by the State Government and many people have surrendered their rights over very valuable properties and the works accordingly are carried out partly, the Government attempting to resile from the activity is nothing but a clog on the fair public administration, thereby rendering the inaction to execute the promise arbitrary and illegal. To put it otherwise, the failure on the part of the Government and other stake-holders to discharge the obligations, is nothing short of criminal breach of promise and undertakings made by it in Ext.P6 order and interfering with the trust held by it for and on behalf of the public.
13. Therefore, in my considered view, the State Government, and all other stake-holders interested in the development of Kochi city ought to have taken emergent steps in order to complete the project envisioned by the State Government as per Ext.P6 order. It is also clear that the Government have started to collect Rs.1/- additionally in the sale of Petrol and Diesel in order to pool the fund for the Projects envisioned under Ext.P6. Therefore, having collected the said fund, the State Government should have made every effort and endeavour to implement the project in a faster pace in order to ventilate the grievances of the residents of Kochi city, and other people visiting Kochi. It is quite disheartening to note from the report submitted by the District Collector, that the PWD had decided not to take up the project. However, having taken a decision as per Ext.P6 and having collected funds also for developing the road in question, the State Government is not at liberty to back out from the project, since the projects as per Ext.P6 are still in force.
14. Taking into account all these aspects and bearing in mind the larger public interest, there will be a direction to the State Government to convene a meeting of all the stake-holders, within two months from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment, and finalize the schedule to complete the project and pump out sufficient funds in order to implement the project in accordance with Ext.P6 and any additional funds required for completing the project. I make it clear that, the project shall be completed by the State Government with the aid, assistance and co-operation of the stake-holders viz., the Kochi Corporation, the Greater Cochin Development Authority and the Kerala Road Fund Board, at the earliest possible time, and at any rate, within one year from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment.
The writ petition is disposed of accordingly.

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