In a welcome, wonderful and wise judgment titled Akhila Bharata Kshatriya Mahasabha v. State of Karnataka in WP No. 49960/2017 delivered on September 7, 2021, the Karnataka High Court has directed the State Government to ensure compliance with the landmark, learned and laudable directions of the Supreme Court barring installation of statues or construction of any structure in public roads, pavements, sideways and other public utility places. This was the crying need of the hour also. Now the State Government in Karnataka is duty bound to comply with it.
To start with, this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment authored by the then Acting Chief Justice Of Karnataka High Court – Hon’ble Mr Satish Chandra Sharma for himself and Hon’ble Mr Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum sets the ball rolling first and foremost in para 2 wherein it is put forth that, “The facts of the case reveal that the 1st petitioner is an All India Trust and 2nd petitioner is the State level Trust, as stated in the petition, involved in the work of social economical upliftment of the people belonging to backward and downtrodden community. Their grievance is that inspite of the order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 18.01.2013 in SLP.No.8519/2006 the bust of Sri.Shivarathri Rajendra Swamiji at the southern entrance of Mysore palce near Gun house is being installed and the State Government has granted permission for the same. The order of the State Government dated 3.3.2017 is on record and a prayer has been made for quashment of the order of the State Government (Annexure-E) as well as the order dated 28.8.2017 (Annexure-F) meaning thereby that the prayer has been made for quashment of the resolution passed by the Mysuru Mahanagara Palike as well as the State Government for installing the statue of Sri. Shivaratri Rajendra Mahaswamy at Gun house circle, which is on the main road. It has also been stated by the petitioners that a request was also made initially for installing the statue of Sri. Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar to the District Urban Development Cell and the same was rejected citing the judgment of the Apex Court and inspite of the judgment of the Apex Court, permission has been granted to install the statue of Sri. Shivarathri Rajendra Swamiji.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then points out in para 3 that, “The State Government has filed the statement of objections and the stand of the State Government is that the present petition has been filed with the vested interest, as the request of the petitioners was turned down for installing the statue of Sri. Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar and it is only after their request was turned down, they are raising hue and cry as the State Government has granted permission to install the statue of Sri. Shivarathri Rajendra Mahaswamy at Gun House circle. It has been stated that the Supreme Court in the case of Union of India .vs. State of Gujarath and others has directed not to grant any permission for installation of any statue or construction of any structure in public roads, pavements, sideways and other public utility places. However, the Gun House Circle is in existence since from the Maharaja’s period and there are several such circles in Mysuru City and several such statues are already in existence and therefore, Mysuru Mahanagara Palike has taken a decision to instal the statue of Sri. Shivaratri Rajendra Mahaswamy in the Gun House Circle as the circle is in existence since long time and it is not part of the public road nor does it fall within the definition of pavement, sideways and other public places.”
Quite rightly, the Bench then enunciates in para 8 that, “The undisputed facts of the case makes it very clear that the place where the statue in question is likely to be installed is certainly one of the most busy square near Mysuru palace near Gus House. The map has been filed by the State Government and the same reveals, as many as six roads are joining at the square and the circle is certainly the part of the road. It is really strange that the respondent-State Government has stated before this Court that it is not part of the road. Colour photographs have also been filed in the matter. The maps and all other documents clearly establish that the spot is in the center of the road and therefore, the issue is whether the statue can be installed at the center of the road on the circle which is in existence?”
Quite significantly, the Bench then hastens to recall in para 9 that, “The order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Special Leave to Appeal(Civil) No.8519/2006 dated 18.01.2013 on I.A.No.10/2012 reads as under:
1. We have heard Mr. Basavaprabhu S. Patil, learned senior counsel for the applicant and Mr. M.T. George, learned counsel for the State of Kerala.
2. Mr. M.T. George, leaned counsel for the State of Kerala placed before us a copy of the order dated September 7, 2011 passed by the Government of Kerala granting permission for installation of statue of late Shri. N. Sundaran Nadar, Ex-Deputy Speaker of Kerala Legislative Assembly near to Neyyattinkara-Poovar Road in the curve turning to the KSRTC Bus Stand Neyyattinkara in the Kanyakumari National Highway near bus stand.
3. We have our doubt whether such permission could have been granted by the State Government for installation of statue on the national highway.
4. Until further orders, we direct that the status-quo, as obtaining today, shall be maintained in all respects by all concerned with regard to the Triangle Island where statue of late Shri. N. Sundaran Nadar has been permitted to be sanctioned. We further direct that henceforth, State Government shall not grant any permission for installation of any statue or construction of any structure in public roads, pavements, sideways and other public street lights or construction relating to electrification, traffic, toll or for development and beautification of the streets, highways, roads etc. and relating to public utility and facilities.
5. The above order shall also apply to all other states and union territories. The concerned Chief Secretary/Administrator shall ensure compliance of the above order.””
Most significantly, the Bench then makes it clear in para 10 that, “The Hon’ble Supreme Court has categorically directed the State Governments not to grant any permission for installation of any statue or construction of any structure in public roads, pavements, sideways and other public utility places and therefore, on account of the order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the question of permitting the State Government and the Mysure Mahanagara Palike to install the statue does not arise.”
Furthermore, what is equally significant is that the Bench then also makes it pretty clear in para 11 that, “In the considered opinion of this Court, neither the petitioners nor any one can install the statue on the island which is on the road (circle which is on the road) keeping in view the judgment delivered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.”
Finally and as a corollary, the Bench then holds in para 12 that, “Resultantly, the writ petition is allowed. The impugned orders passed by the State Government dated 3.3.2017 and the order dated 28.8.2017 of the 2nd respondent-Mysuru Mahanagara Palike are hereby quashed. The State Government is also directed to ensure compliance of the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the entire State of Karnataka.”
In conclusion, it may well be said that the Karnataka High Court Bench comprising of the then Acting Chief Justice Hon’ble Mr Satish Chandra Sharma and Hon’ble Mr Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum have by this cogent, commendable, composed and convincing judgment left not even an iota of doubt of any kind that the State Government of Karnataka has just no option but to comply with the Supreme Court directions baring installations of statues on public roads and pavements. This is specifically elaborated upon most elegantly in para 9 and 10 which the State Government of Karnataka has to adhere to in totality. This will certainly well serve the public interest also which should always be paramount under all circumstances also!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate