Environment Support Group's PIL (WP 817/08, download the PIL) challenging the leasing out of Hebbal, Agara, Nagawara and Vengaiahanakere tanks to private developers by the Lake Development Authority came up for hearing before a Division bench of the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka today. The Division Bench comprising of Justice Shailendra Kumar and Justice Aravind Kumar intently listened to the Petitioner's concerns about the potential threat to the loss of the inherent character of these lakes as functional ecosystems, bird habitats and public commons if the LDA was allowed to go ahead with the commercialisation and privatisation of lakes under the guise of maintenance. The Bench observed the critical importance of preserving the lakes, and said "waterbodies are like amrutha."
At this point, Mr. Puttige Ramesh Advocate for the Petitioner in WP 1841/2006 (Krishna Bhat and ors. Vs. State of Karnataka and ors.) brought to the notice of the bench that his matter had been tagged along for filing a compliance report by the Karnataka Legal Services Authority. It was explained that when this matter was finally disposed off on 17 September 2008, it was with the direction that the Hon'ble Member Secretary of the Authority would help in monitoring various protective measures of lakes in Karnataka as laid out by the Court in the order (download order). However, even though only one meeting had been called by the Authority, it did not materialise in any progress. Mr. Ramesh said that the Court's directions to Government agencies in the Krishna Bhat case was to survey and live fence lakes with trees, and to take steps to protect lakes from disposal of sewage and garbage into the lakes. But this decision had not been complied with, in the least. The Bench observed that such scant regard for Court directions was a matter of grave concern. The Bench also articulated that a High Court could only issue a writ of mandamus, but could not monitor compliance by the State agencies to a writ direction as this was the duty of the executive wing of the State. The Bench also asked the Asst. Advocate General if the State had any intention of complying with directions issued to it by the Court.
Further, the Court was informed by Mr. Sunil Dutt Yadav, Advocate representing Environment Support Group and Leo Saldanha appearing as Party in Person in 817/2008, that there were other related matters on the protection of lakes in Bangalore pending before the High Court. An interim direction in WP 31343/95 (filed by Padmashri Zafar Futehally and ors.) to enforce the recommendations of the Laxman Rao Committee Report had been pending before the High Court for over a decade, in fact since 1995. Even though the Court had directed as an interim measure not to alienate lake lands in the BMRDA region, there was weak compliance with this order.
Issuing directions to call this case for further hearing in two weeks, the Hon'ble Division Bench directed that WP 817/08 and WP 31343/95 would be taken up for final orders jointly. It sought a written submission of compliance from the State with regard to the implementation of the directions in WP 31343/95 and WP 1841/2006.