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Kerala HC: Writ Jurisdiction Can’t be Challenged on Municipality Decisions on Public Place Licenses

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Kerala HC Law Insider

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Published on: 22 September 2023 at 12:21 IST

The Kerala High Court has ruled that the writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution cannot be invoked to challenge decisions made by Municipalities, especially those related to granting or refusing licenses or permissions to occupy public places, unless such orders are illegal or contrary to the law.

Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas further emphasized that Municipal Authorities possess the authority to make such determinations while considering the interests of both the Municipality and the public.

The judge stated, “This Court cannot sit in appeal over the decisions of the authorities, especially when it relates to the grant or refusal of a licence or a permission to occupy a public place. The Municipal authorities who are vested with the powers of control and administration of public places would necessarily have to take a decision on the basis of the best interests of not only the Municipality but also of the people. Therefore, in the absence of any perversity or any malafides being attributed or shown to exist in issuing the impugned order, there is no cause for any interference under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.”

These observations came in response to a writ petition filed seeking an extension to use a public ground controlled by the Municipality for an Aqua Fest Exhibition called Ecstasy.

The petitioner organized an Aqua Fest Exhibition called Ecstasy in the Municipal Ground, Kottayam, showcasing a rare collection of flora and fauna. Initially scheduled from August 19 to September 17, the event gained widespread popularity, prompting the petitioner to apply for a ten-day extension.

The Revenue Officer of Kottayam Municipality rejected the extension application, leading to a legal challenge in the High Court.

The petitioner’s counsel argued that the rejection of the extension application was arbitrary and discriminatory. It was contended that the petitioner possessed the necessary license and permissions for the event and that the extension request was dismissed without proper consideration of relevant factors.

However, the respondent’s counsel countered that the decision to deny the extension was made after considering various factors. They pointed out that extending the period specified in a license to use municipal grounds was a prerogative of the Municipality, and the grounds were required for an event related to the Swachh Bharat Mission.

The Court determined that the petitioner could appeal the impugned order to the Municipal Council. It reiterated that the Municipality held the authority to make decisions concerning the control and administration of public places.

Justice Thomas also emphasized that the court’s jurisdiction under Article 226 is limited to interference when an order is perverse, legally flawed, or lacks jurisdiction.

Furthermore, it was noted that the petitioner was aware of the specified license period in advance, and her delay in addressing it weakened her case for an extension.

As a result, the Court held that it could not intervene in the decisions of the Municipality, particularly those related to granting or refusing licenses or permissions to occupy public places.

Consequently, the writ petition was dismissed. However, the petitioner was advised to pursue an appeal if desired, and the Court specifically clarified that such an appeal would be considered without the restrictions of the writ jurisdiction.

Case Title: Archa Unni v. State of Kerala