HYDERABAD: Taking a serious view of filing a frivolous plea in the name of public interest, a division bench of the Hyderabad High Court on Tuesday imposed exemplary costs of Rs 1 lakh on the petitioner organisation and ordered it to pay the same to the Telangana government within four weeks.
The bench, comprising acting chief justice Ramesh Ranganathan and justice A Shankar Narayana, passed the order while dismissing a PIL filed by ‘Gareeb Guide’, a voluntary organisation of the city, questioning the action of TS government in not declaring the properties belonging to former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu the late J Jayalalithaa located in the state as public properties in accordance with the provisions of Hindu Succession Act.
The petitioner stated that Jayalalithaa had 14.50 acres of agricultural land at Jeedimetla village in Malkajgiri district and about 7,000 sq ft area of commercial complex in Srinagar Colony area of the city.
Petitioner’s counsel DV Rao submitted that Jayalalithaa died without writing any will and that she had no legal heirs. The late leader remained unmarried and her only brother too died in 1995. He alleged that her close friend Sasikala Natarajan was trying to grab the assets. According to Sec 29 of the Hindu Succession Act, such assets should vest with the state and the TS was not taking any steps to take over them, he argued.
The bench then sought to know the basis of his claim from the counsel. “How do you know that there was no will at all?” the bench asked him. In reply, the counsel said that he was relying on media reports. The bench then posed another query as to what would happen to the kin of her brother who are staying in Tamil Nadu? The counsel said he wasn’t aware of this fact.
The bench remarked,“It is only a few days since the leader died and the petitioner is before us without verifying the facts at the ground level. This is a publicity- oriented petition and not a public interest petition,” and slapped costs of Rs 1 lakh on the petitioner to be paid to TS government. The counsel then started requesting the court to allow him to withdraw the case or reduce the penalty amount. The bench remained firm and passed the order to that effect, and dismissed the case.
When the counsel went on insisting on his plea, the bench warned him to sit. Later in the day, a senior counsel tried to request the bench to reduce the costs but the latter remained firm on its decision.