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Bombay HC praises role of NGOs in detecting state irregularities [Read Judgment]

Bar & Bench

Omkar Gokhale

The Bombay High Court recently lauded the role of NGOs in bringing state irregularities to the Court’s notice.

While quashing an externment order against a 28-year-old social activist working for tribal students, the Court remarked that it is only due to the vigilance of social workers and NGOs that the Court recognises grievances of the people and can pass appropriate orders against authorities. He observed,

 “It is a fact that many cases are brought before the High Court by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) irregularities are pointed out to the High Court in respect of functioning of schools and absence of basic facilities to the citizens. Only due to activeness of the social workers and NGOs, many times irregularities are detected.”

A Division Bench of Justices TV Nalawade and KK Sonawane commended the role of NGOs in exposing malpractices in schools and government institutions in tribal areas.

Further, expressing displeasure about inspections by government authorities, Justice Nalawade observed,

“It is noticed that routine inspections arranged by the government and its authorities are not providing to be helpful and persons with no backing are not coming forward to express the grievances.” 

Moreover, referring to the challenges faced by social activists in tribal areas, the Court said that the petitioner must have made enemies not only in politics, but also in the revenue and police department. In this backdrop, it remarked,

“Against every social worker crimes are registered and only registration of crime cannot become a ground for externment order.”

The plea was filed by 28-year-old student and social activist for the rights of tribal people in the Marathwada region’s Hingoli district. He had challenged the order of his externment by the Sub Divisional Police Officer (Magistrate), Hingoli, which was confirmed by the Sub Divisional Commissioner, Aurangabad.

The order claimed that the presence of petitioner activist will cause threat to life and property of persons in Hingoli city and contiguous tehsils. The externment order in question was based on the charges levelled against the activist under Sections 353, 323 and 149 of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The petitioner submitted that he is a social worker and is a president of an NGO created for the benefit of tribal people and particularly tribal students. He claimed that the cases were registered by people opposing and seeking to stop his welfare activities.

The Court found that the activities of the petitioner were in the interest of public at large and did not affect public order.

It observed that the activities for which charges were framed against him were actually in the interest of people. It was noted that in the instant case, the petitioner was helping villagers in a dispute related to road encroachment, due to which students were not able to reach school and the market in another village. In another activity, the activist had participated in an agitation against the village Sarpanch over her alleged inaction in providing water and electricity for the village.

Even otherwise, the Court observed that the petitioner had taken the lead in many agitations against educational institutions on behalf of tribal students. It proceeded to point out that the authorities had also found substance in many issues raised by the petitioner, including allegations about malpractices in a tribal school and irregularities in a residential hostel for tribal girls.

Therefore, the Court set aside the externment order against the social activist.

In view of these observations, the Court allowed the petitioner’s plea, remarking,

Only two crimes were registered. Some material which is ultimately used in the externment order was not mentioned in the show cause notice. This Court has no hesitation to hold that the activities of the petitioner were in the interest of public at large and they were not affecting the public order as mentioned above. This Court holds that the externment order made against the petitioner cannot sustain in law.”

[Read Judgment]

Bombay-HC-Prashant-v-State-of-Maharashtra-NGOs-July-2019.pdf
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