(Prayer: Writ Petition filed Under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying to issue a Writ of Certiorarified Mandamus, calling for the records of Part I Condition II of Impugned Gazette Notification No.29, dated 11.10.2019 published by the 3rd respondent in Tamil Nadu Government Gazette for Salem District and Impugned order passed by the 3rd respondent in Na.Ka.1055/2019/Minerals-A dated 27.11.2019 and quash the same and issue consequential direction directing the 3rd respondent to issue tender license to the petitioner Association for quarrying in Thekkalpatty Panchayt based on the petitioner application dated 29.10.2019.)
1. The writ petition has been filed in the nature of Certiorarified mandamus, to call for the records of Part I Condition II of Impugned Gazette Notification No.29, dated 11.10.2019 published by the 3rd respondent in Tamil Nadu Government Gazette for Salem District and Impugned order passed by the 3rd respondent in Na.Ka.1055/2019/Minerals-A dated 27.11.2019 and quash the same.
2. The petitioner seeks a direction to issue tender license to the petitioner Association for quarrying in Thekkalpatty Village, based on the application dated 29.10.2019. The writ petition has been filed by Mettupatti Boyar Kal Ottarkal Kal Udaippor Welfare Association, represented by its President R.Murugan.
3. In the affidavit filed in support of the writ petition, Thiru.R.Murugan has stated that the petitioner Association was established in the year 2011 and has its registered office at No.192/2011. The main object of the Association is to promote the Boyars (Released Bonded Labours) who were involved in the work of breaking of stones or mining in Salem District. It is stated that there are more than 50 active members involved in the mining work in Salem District who are members of the petitioner Association.
4. In the affidavit, it is further stated that on 11.10.2019, a Gazette Notification No.29 (Special Edition) was issued calling for grant of Lease for Mining in Salem District for Self Financing Group and Released Bonded Labour under the Scheme 'Swarna Jayanthi Gram Swarozgar Yojana' (SGSY) for grant of license for mining in Government Poramboke land situated in Salem District in various areas, among them also for Thekkalpatti Village in Survey No.36/1, measuring 8.25.5 Hecrates. The nature of land was mentioned as Kallanguthu and the period of lease was for ten years. The petitioner Association had applied for tender on 29.10.2019. It must be mentioned that in the Bye Laws of the petitioner Association, they have very specifically stated as follows:
5. It is seen from their Bye Laws that the petitioner Association can quarry in any area, not necessarily within the Mettupatti Panchayat area. In view of this fact, the petitioner had applied for the tender as stated above. They were only the applicant.
6. On perusal of the application, the petitioner was also directed to file several documents in support of the tender. It is claimed that they had submitted all the said documents. Thereafter, the impugned order was passed, rejecting their application. This application was rejected only on the ground that they belonged to Mettupatti Panchayat Village, and that the land is situated in Thekkalpatti Panchayat.
7. Reliance was placed on Rule 10 (A)(i), (ii) and (iii) of the Tamil Nadu Mines and Minerals Rules. The said provisions are as follows:
“(10-A) (a) Notwithstanding anything contrary contained in this rule, the District Collector shall, by notification in the District Gazette published in the month of April every year, call for applications for direct grant of leases of stone quarries to the [Swarna Jayanthi Gram Swarozgar Yojana Scheme Groups (herein after called SGSY Grourps)] registered either under the Tamil Nadu Co-oeprative Societies Act, 1983 (Tamil Nadu Act 30 of 1983) or under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975 (Tamil Nadu Act 27 of 1975) and the societies formed by released bonded labourers, subject to the following conditions, namely:-
(i) Separate application shall be made for each area for which applications are invited by the District Collector through a notification in the District Gazette in the Form prescribed in Appendix VI-B. A challan for Rs.500/- (Rupees five hundred only) remitted towards non-refundable application fee in the concerned District Treasury shall be enclosed with the application.
(ii) Any application made under this sub-rule shall be made for an area which is located within the area of operation of the co-operative society or other societies who are eligible to make applications under this sub-rule.
(iii) The area of operation of the applicant society shall be specified in the applicant society's by-laws and such area of operation of the applicant society shall be within the limits of one Panchayat area only.
8. It is stated that since the name of the petitioner Association mentioned 'Mettupatti' and since the land is in Thekkalpatti Panchayat, the respondents were justified in denying the petitioner the opportunity of taking on lease the said lands. It must be kept in mind that the respondents have not stated that the petitioner Association does not have the averred object of upliftment and the welfare of Boyars namely persons rescued from bonded labour. It must be the objecting of the respondents under the scheme to ensure that rescued bonded labourers are provided with sufficient opportunity to be rehabilitated in society with dignity. It cannot be stated that bonded labours who are residents of one particular Panchayat alone will be granted the privileges of rehabilitation and if they reside in any other Panchayat, they would be denied such rehabilitation opportunities. It must also be kept in mind that the members of the petitioner Association were labourers in the specific area of work namely in quarrying work. It is for that purpose that the respondents had given out advertisements calling for prospective lessees to take on lease the land in Thekkalpatti Village under the SGSY Scheme.
9. Even under Rule 10 (A)(i), (ii) and (iii) of the Tamil Nadu Mines and Minerals Rules extracted above, there is no specific prohibition from granting the tender to an Association 'who are eligible to make applications'. The first priority is to consider the Association in the same area, and thereafter any 'other societies who are eligible'. Article 15 (1) of the Constitution of India makes it clear that no person can be discriminated on the place of his birth. Article 23 prohibits forced labour. Article 38 places an obligation on the state to secure a social order for the welfare of the people. Article 41 makes it mandatory that the state shall provide right to work.
10. It is a duty to enave that bonded labourers who were working in quarrying work, have to be rehabilitated and such rehabilitation can be effectively done only when they are provided with the same nature of work and when opportunity presents itself. The petitioner Association had been formed only for that purpose and when the respondents deny them, naturally this Court under Article 226 of Constitution of India will certainly interfere with the order of the respondents.
11. It must also be kept in mind that the Mettupatty Panchayat and Thekkalpatty Panchayat are situated within 2 kms of each other. Consequently, I find that the respondent had placed reliance on the very narrow reasons without examining the entire scheme of rehabilitation of the Bonded Labours, have unjustly denied the members of the petitioner Association the opportunity of taking on lease the land for quarrying.
12. In (1983) 3 SCC 243, Neeraja Chaudhary Vs State of MP, it has been observed as follows:
“This is yet another case which illustrates forcibly what we have said on many an occasion that it is not enough merely to identify and release bonded labourers but it is equally, perhaps more, important that after identification and release, they must be rehabilitated, because without rehabilitation, they would be driven by poverty, helplessness and despair into serfdom once again. Poverty and destitution are almost perennial features of Indian rural life for large numbers of unfortunate ill-starred humans in this country and it would be nothing short of cruelty and heartlessness to identify and release bonded labourers merely to throw them at the mercy of the existing social and economic system which denies to them even the basic necessities of life such as food, shelter and clothing. It is obvious that poverty is a curse inflicted on large masses of people by our malfunctioning socio-economic structure and it has the disastrous effect of corroding the soul and sapping the moral fibre of a human being by robbing him of all basic human dignity and destroying in him the higher values and the finer susceptibilities which go to make up this wonderful creation of God upon earth, namely, man. It does not mean mere inability to buy the basic necessities of life but it goes much deeper; it deprives a man of all opportunities of education and advancement and increases a thousand fold his vulnerability to misfortunes which come to him all too often and which he is not able to withstand on account of lack of social and material resources. We, who have not experienced poverty and hunger, want and destitution, talk platitudiously of freedom and liberty but these words have no meaning for a person who has not even a square meal per day, hardly a roof over his head and scarcely one piece of cloth to cover his shame. What use are ‘identification’ and ‘release’ to bonded labourers if after attaining their so-called freedom from bondage to a master they are consigned to a life of another bondage, namely, bondage to hunger and starvation where they have nothing to hope for — not even anything to die for — and they do not know whether they will be able to secure even a morsel of food to fill the hungry stomachs of their starving children. What would they prize more: freedom and liberty with hunger and destitution staring them in the face or some food to satisfy their hunger and the hunger of their near and dear ones, even at the cost of freedom and liberty? The answer is obvious. It is therefore imperative that neither the Government nor the Court should be content with merely securing identification and release of bounded labourers but every effort must be made by them to see that the freed bonded labourers are properly and suitably rehabilitated after identification and
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release.” 13. In this connection, the Gazette notification so far as it places restriction on the area of location is questioned and the state Government is directed to reframe Rule 10 (A)(iii) of the Tamil Nadu Mines and Minerals Rules to give preference to the area of the land/Association and thereafter to also consider Association from other areas. Application from Association from other areas cannot be rejected on this ground. 14. In the result, the Gazette notification impugned is sought with respect to Rule 10(A)(iii) and being violation of Article 15 (1), Article 38 and Article 47 of the Constitution of India. 15. The impugned order is set aside and a direction is issued to the respondent more particularly to the 3rd respondent namely the District Collector, Salem to forthwith grant the lease in favour of the petitioner Association for Thekkalpatty Panchayat in Survey No.36/1 (part) to an extent of 8.25.5 hectares and land extent of 1 hectare for the Kallanguthu land for a period of 10 years. 16. With the above observation, this writ petition is allowed. Consequently, connected miscellaneous petitions are closed. No costs.