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The State of Kerala, Represented by Secretary To Government, Forest & Wild Life Department, Thiruvananthapuram & Others v/s Vishalakshi Amma


    WA. No. 109 of 2020

    Decided On, 29 May 2020

    At, High Court of Kerala

    By, THE HONOURABLE CHIEF JUSTICE MR. S. MANIKUMAR & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE SHAJI P. CHALY

    For the Appellants: Government Pleader. For the Respondent: R1, K. Mohanakannan, Advocate.



Judgment Text


Shaji P. Chaly, J.

1. This appeal is filed by the State Government and its officials, who are the respondents in W.P.(C) No. 4772 of 2019, against the judgment of the learned Judge dated 03.12.2019.

2. After considering the rival submissions, the learned single Judge has disposed of the writ petition with the following directions at paragraph 5:

5. True, the Rules provide that the wild life stock in the possession of the public should have been declared within a period of 180 days from the date of publication of the Rules and the said 180 days expired on 18.10.2003. The Rules do not confer any power to the authorities concerned to enlarge the time limit prescribed therein for making the declaration. But if the time has been relaxed in favour of one person for the purpose of granting the certificate of ownership, I do not find any reason why such relaxation cannot be extended to others, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case. Ext.P9 series and Ext.P10 certificates of ownership produced by WPC No.4772 of 2019 5 the petitioner would prima facie indicate that the applications in respect of the wild life stock referred to therein have been preferred long after 18.10.2003. In the circumstances, I deem it appropriate to dispose of the writ petition directing the second respondent to consider whether time has been relaxed in any case for the purpose of granting the certificate of ownership and if so, under what circumstances, and if it is found that time has been relaxed in any case, consider Ext.P7 representation also in that background. Ordered accordingly. This shall be done within 2 months.”

3. According to the appellants, the directions issued to the second respondent/appellant No.2, after arriving at a prima facie opinion on the issue of ownership certificates already issued, to consider whether time has been relaxed in any case for the purpose of granting the certificate of ownership and if so, under what circumstances, and if it is found that time has been relaxed in any case, to consider Ext.P7 representation also in that background, cannot be sustained for the reason that as per the provisions of Kerala Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 ('the Act 1972 for brevity) and Declaration of Wildlife Stock Rules, 2003 ('Rules, 2003' for brevity), time limits were prescribed for the issuance of certificate of possession of any forest or animal produce and registration respectively. It is also submitted by the appellants that the documents produced by the writ petitioner at Ext.P9 series are all certificates of ownership issued by the Chief Conservator of Forests on the basis of the applications submitted before the cutoff date and Ext.P10 certificate of ownership is one issued to the legal heir of a certificate holder prior to the cutoff date and therefore, the directions issued to the authorised officer to consider the application submitted by the writ petitioner placing reliance on those documents cannot be sustained under law.

4. The brief material facts as is discernible from the writ petition is required for the purpose of disposing of the appeal. The writ petitioner's father was in possession of a deer horn and it was kept in the house of the writ petitioner. According to the writ petitioner, the same was in possession for the last 150 years and when the writ petitioner came to know about the same and requirement of certificate and registration, she has filed Ext.P1 application in form No.13 as provided under Rule 35 of the Kerala Wild Life Protection Rules, 1978 ('the Rules, 1978 for brevity) before the Chief Wildlife Warden and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wild Life) on 24.05.2011. Ext.P2 is the representation submitted before the Forest Range Officer, Thamarassery, Kozhikode District. By Ext.P3, the Chief Wildlife Warden has informed the writ petitioner that she has not declared the possession of the article before 18.10.2003 and therefore, she has to surrender the same before the Forest Department. Aggrieved by the same, she has filed Ext.P4 representation before the Minister of Forest and the same was forwarded to the Chief Wildlife Warden for appropriate action, evident from Ext.P5. Anyhow, the writ petitioner surrendered the article before the Forest Range Officer, evident from Ext.P6. Thereafter, the writ petitioner again submitted Ext.P7 representation before the Chief Wildlife Warden requesting him to issue a certificate for getting possession of the deer horn. Anyhow, no action was initiated. While so, the writ petitioner has submitted Ext.P8 application under the Right to Information Act seeking information regarding the certificate of ownership issued with respect to the wildlife trophy (deer horn) after the cutoff date i.e., 18.10.2003. According to the writ petitioner, she was informed accordingly that 109 certificates were issued after 18.10.2003. Some of the certificates from out of 109 certificates received by the writ petitioner were produced as Ext.P9. Therefore, according to the writ petitioner, the objection raised to consider the application submitted by the writ petitioner is arbitrary and illegal. Later, along with an interlocutory application, the writ petitioner has produced a certificate of ownership dated 24.05.2011 issued to one Vineeth Varghese on the basis of an application submitted on 31.05.2010. Therefore, according to the writ petitioner, there is no reason for not considering the application submitted by the writ petitioner.

5. The Forest Department has filed a detailed statement dated 28.05.2019 virtually admitting the facts and circumstances put forth by the writ petitioner, however, disputing the fact that Ext.P9 series of certificates of ownership were issued on the basis of the application submitted after the cutoff date prescribed under Rules, 2003. It was also contended that so far as Ext. P10 certificate was concerned, it was a certificate of ownership issued to the legal heir of a certificate holder as per Rule 37 of Rules, 1978 r/w Section (2B) of Section 40 of the Act, 1972. Therefore, it is submitted that the directions issued by the learned single Judge on the basis of the the finding that Ext.P9 series and Ext.P10 certificates of ownership produced by the writ petitioner would prima facie indicate that the applications in respect of the wildlife stock referred to therein have been preferred long after 18.10.2003, cannot be sustained under law. In the background, it is apprehended that if the directions are not complied with, the Forest Officials and the State would have to face contempt proceedings. It is further contended that an application submitted several years after the time limit prescribed cannot be entertained, since there is no power vested with the authority to do so

6. We have heard Sri Sandesh Raja, learned Special Government Pleader appearing for the appellants and Sri. K. Mohanakannan for the respondent, and perused the pleadings and documents on record.

7. The sole question emerges for consideration is whether any manner of interference is required to the judgment of the learned single Judge. To understand the factual situation discussed above, it is appropriate that the provisions of law are discussed first.

8. Section 40 of Act, 1972 deals with 'declarations' and sub- Section (1) stipulates that every person having at the commencement of the Act, the control, custody or possession of any captive animal specified in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II, [or animal article, trophy or uncured trophy] derived from such animal or salted or dried skins of such animal or the musk of a musk deer or the horn of a rhinoceros, shall, within thirty days from the commencement of the Act, declare to the Chief Wildlife Warden or the authorised officer the number and description of the animal, or article of the foregoing description under his control, custody or possession and the place where such animal or article is kept.

9. Sub-Sections (2), 2A and 2B of Section 40 read thus:

“(2) No person shall, after the commencement of this Act, acquire, receive, keep in his control, custody or possession, sell, offer for sale or otherwise transfer or transport any animal specified in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II or any uncured trophy or meat derived from such animal, or the salted or dried skins of such animal or the musk of a musk deer or the horn of a rhinoceros, except with the previous permission in writing of the Chief WildLife Warden or the authorised officer.

[(2A) No person other than a person having a certificate of ownership, shall, after the commencement of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 acquire, receive, keep in his control, custody or possession any captive animal, animal article, trophy or uncured trophy specified in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II, except by way of inheritance.

[(2B) Every person inheriting any captive animal, animal article, trophy or uncured trophy under sub-section (2A) shall, within ninety days of such inheritance make a declaration to the Chief WildLife Warden or the authorised officer and the provisions of Sections 41 and 42 shall apply as if the declaration had been made under sub-section (1) of section 40.”

10. Therefore, on a conjoint reading of sub-Sections (1) and (2) of Section 40, it is categoric and clear that the person in custody or possession or control of a trophy is duty bound to declare the same to the Chief Wildlife Warden or the authorised Officer, and no person, after the commencement of the Act, was entitled to acquire, receive or keep in his control, custody or possession any such article. Later, Sub- Section (2A) was introduced to the Act, 1972, whereby no person other than a person having a certificate of ownership shall, after the commencement of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 acquire, receive, keep in his control, custody or possession any captive animal, animal article, trophy or uncured trophy specified in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II, except by way of inheritance. Sub-Section (2B) was introduced to Section 40, by which it is stipulated that every person inheriting any captive animal, animal article, trophy or uncured trophy under sub-section (2A) shall, within ninety days of such inheritance make a declaration to the Chief Wildlife Warden or the authorised officer and the provisions of Sections 41 and 42 shall apply as if the declaration had been made under sub-section (1) of section 40. Sub- Sections (2A) and (2B) were introduced into Section 40 as per Act 16 of 2003. Whatever that may be, sub-Section (4) of Section 40, as it originally stood and as amended by Act 16 of 2003, reads thus:

“(4) The State Government may, by notification, require any person to declare to the Chief WildLife Warden or the authorised officer [any animal or animal article] or trophy (other than a musk of a musk deer or horn of a rhinoceros) or salted or dried skins derived from an animal specified in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II in his control, custody or possession in such form, in such manner, and within such time, as may be prescribed.”

11. It is seen that by virtue of the power conferred by sub- Sections (1) and (3) of Section 40A r/w Section 63 of Act, 1972, the Central Government had made 'Declaration of Wildlife Stock Rules, 2003'. Rules 3 to 14 are relevant to the context, which read thus:

3. Publicity of intent of notification and Assistance in making application.—

(1) The Chief WildLife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government in this regard shall cause to give wide publicity to the intent of this notification in the regional language through electronic or print media or such other means.

(2) The Chief WildLife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government in this regard shall take necessary action to assist the local communities and individuals especially the poor and illiterate in the declaration of their possession, filling up the specified form and any other matter connected therewith and shall make every attempt to ensure that no individual or community associated with animals is deprived of this opportunity.

4. Procedure for filing applications.—

(1) An application to the Chief WildLife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government in this regard shall be presented in the Form annexed to these rules by the applicant either in person or by an agent or by duly authorized legal practitioner or sent by registered post addressed to the Chief WildLife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government in this regard of the concerned State or the Union territory.

(2) The application under sub-rule (1) shall be presented in four complete sets within a period of one hundred and eighty days from the date of publication of these rules.

(3) The applicant may attach to and present with his application an acknowledgement slip as is given in the Form which shall be signed by the official receiving the application on behalf of the Chief Wildlife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government in this regard in acknowledgement of the receipt of the application.

5. Presentation and scrutiny of applications.—

(1) The Chief WildLife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government in this regard shall endorse on every application the date on which it is presented or deemed to have been presented under that rule and shall sign the endorsement.

(2) If on scrutiny, the application is found to be in order, it shall be duly registered and given serial number.

(3) If the application, on scrutiny, is found to be defective, the same shall be returned to the applicant within fifteen days for rectifying the defects and resubmitting the corrected application within fifteen days from the date of its receipt.

(4) If the applicant fails to rectify the defect within the time allowed under sub-rule (3), the Chief WildLife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government in this regard may, by order and for the reasons to be recorded in writing, decline to register the application.

6. Place of filing application.—The applicant shall file application with the Chief WildLife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government in this regard.

7. Date and place of hearing to be notified.—The Chief WildLife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government in this regard shall notify to the parties the date, place and time of hearing of each application, if required.

8. Decision on applications.—

(1) The Chief WildLife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government in this regard shall verify the facts mentioned in the application and make such inquiry as may be required.

(2) The Chief WildLife Warden shall, as far as possible, decide the application within six months of the date of its presentation and communicate the same to the applicant in writing under his own signature by registered post.

9. Hearing on application ex parte.—Where on the date fixed for hearing the application, the applicant fails to appear without intimation, the Chief WildLife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government in this regard may at their discretion adjourn or decide the application ex parte.

10. Inquiry by the Chief WildLife Warden or authorised officer.—

(1) The Chief WildLife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government in this regard shall conduct a detailed inquiry and take all actions as provided in section 41 of the Act.

(2) A copy of the report pertaining to sub-rule (1) of this rule, shall be provided to the applicant.

11. Certificate of ownership.—

(1) The Chief WildLife Warden shall provide a certificate of ownership to the applicant whose claim is found valid.

(2) The certificate of ownership shall be provided as per the provisions of section 42 of the Act.

(3) The certificate of ownership shall contain the facsimile of the identification mark and in case of live animals the identification number of the transponder (microchip) implanted shall be mentioned in the certificate.

12. Dealing with declared objects.—Any captive animal, animal article, trophy or uncured trophy declared under sub-section (1) of section 40A and in respect of which certificate of ownership has not been granted or obtained, shall be treated as government property.

13. Order to be signed and dated.—Every order of the Chief Wildlife Warden shall be in writing and shall be signed and dated by the Chief Wildlife Warden.

14. Communication of order to parties.—Every order passed on the application shall be communicated to the applicant either in person or by registered post free of cost.

12. On a reading of Rule 3, it is quite clear and evident that the Chief Wildlife Warden or the officer authorized by the State Government was duty bound to give wide publicity to the intent of this notification in the regional language through electronic or print media or such other means. Sub-Rule (2) of Rule (3) cast a duty upon such Officers to take necessary action to assist the local communities and individuals, especially the poor and illiterate in the declaration of their possession, filling up the specified form and other procedures prescribed under Rule 4(1), and Rule 4(2) prescribes a time limit of 180 days for submitting an application from the date of publication of Rules, 2003. The Rules were published in the Gazette of India dated 18.04.2003 and it came into force from the said date by virtue of Rule 2. The rest of the Rules extracted above make it clear that there was a clear procedure prescribed for the receipt, issuance, acknowledgement and scrutiny of the applications, and thereafter if it was satisfied that the applicant is entitled to be issued with a certificate of ownership, the same is to be issued as per Rule 11 of Rules, 2003. It is an admitted fact that the writ petitioner has not submitted an application within the cut off period prescribed under Rules 2003. Though she has a case that the trophy was in the possession of her father and herself for a period of 150 years, she contradicts the same by stating that it was not aware to her. Be that as it may, the basic and paramount contention put forth by the writ petitioner is evident from the reply given to the application submitted by the writ petitioner under the Right to Information Act that, 109 ownership certificates were issued after the cut off date.

13. On the contrary, the contention advanced by the learned Special Government Pleader is that those certificates of ownership were issued on the basis of the application submitted before the cut off date and therefore, no reliance can be placed on Ext.P9 series of certificates for the purpose of considering the application submitted by the writ petitioner for ownership certificate. Therefore, according to the learned Special Government Pleader, the observation made by the learned single Judge, relying upon Ext.P9 series of certificates, and Ext.P10 certificate of ownership issued to a legal heir and the consequential direction, cannot be sustained under law.

14. On a deeper analysis of the situation, we are of the considered opinion that the writ petitioner has no case that the applications leading to Ext.P9 series of certificate of ownership were submitted by the owners of the trophy after the cutoff date prescribed under the Rules, 2003. But, at the same time, the learned counsel for the Writ petitioner has raised a contention that the writ petitioner has produced only a few certificates and other certificates in possession of the writ petitioner would prove that the applications were submitted subsequent to the cutoff date and therefore, no grounds are made out by the appellants to interfere with the judgment rendered by the learned single Judge. On verification of Ext.P9 series of certificates of ownership issued to various persons, we are of the considered opinion that they are issued subsequent to the cutoff date prescribed under Rules, 2003. However, the date of the application is not mentioned in any of the certificates issued. So also, Ext.P10 cannot be relied upon for the purpose of considering the application submitted by the writ petitioner, because that was a certificate issued to a legal heir of a holder of a certificate which is protected as per the provisions of the Act, 1972 and Rules, 1978 as discussed above.

15. The legal contention advanced by the learned counsel for the writ petitioner in that regard is that, the State Government and its officials are in possession of the applications and therefore, they were duty bound to produce the same before the learned single Judge and ought to have established that they have issued certificates of ownership on the basis of the application submitted prior to the cutoff date prescribed under Rules, 2003.

16. On the other hand, the learned Special Government Pleader submitted that the burden of proof to support the pleadings was heavy on the writ petitioner to get the reliefs on the basis of the documents produced by the writ petitioner herself. Therefore, we are confronted with the question as to how the situation is to be tackled. Normally, when a pleading is put forth by the writ petitioner, relying upon any document, the burden of proof lies on him. On a perusal of Exhibit P8 application submitted by the writ petitioner under the Right to Information Act, we are of the view that the information sought for by the writ petitioner was as to the number of ownership certificates issued after the cutoff date of 18.10.2003 and it was accordingly that the copies of ownership certificates were issued by the Chief Wildlife Warden to the writ petitioner. Therefore, we find that the writ petitioner has never applied for or sought information with regard to the date of the applications on the basis of which the ownership certificates were issued after the cutoff date prescribed under Rules, 2003. The question of burden of proof so far as the pleadings in a writ petition is concerned, was considered by the Apex Court in Bharat Singh and others v. State of Haryana and others (AIR 1988 SC 2181). Paragraph 13 of the said decision reads thus:

“13. As has been already noticed, although the point as to profiteering by the State was pleaded in the writ petitions before the High Court as an abstract point of law, there was no reference to any material in support thereof nor was the point argued at the hearing of the writ petitions. Before us also, no particulars and no facts have been given in the special leave petitions or in the writ petitions or in any affidavit, but the point has been sought to be substantiated at the time of hearing by referring to certain facts stated in the said application by HSIDC. In our opinion, when a point which is ostensibly a point of law is required to be substantiated by facts, the party raising the point, if he is the writ petitioner, must plead and prove such facts by evidence which must appear from the writ petition and if he is the respondent, from the counter-affidavit. If the facts are not pleaded or the evidence in support of such facts is not annexed to the writ petition or to the counter-affidavit, as the case may be, the court will not entertain the point. In this context, it will not be out of place to point out that in this regard there is a distinction between a pleading under the Code of Civil Procedure and a writ petition or a counter-affidavit. While in a pleading, that is, a plaint or a written statement, the facts and not evidence are required to be pleaded, in a writ petition or in the counter-affidavit not only the facts but also the evidence in proof of such facts have to be pleaded and annexed to it. So, the point that has been raised before us by the appellants is not entertainable. But, in spite of that, we have entertained it to show that it is devoid of any merit.”

A similar view has been reiterated by the apex court in Larsen & Toubro Ltd. v. State of Gujarat [AIR 1998 SC 1608 : (1998) 4 SCC 387]; Atul Castings Ltd. v. Bawa Gurvachan Singh [(2001) 5 SCC 133:AIR 2001 SC 1684]; and Rajasthan Pradesh Vaidya Samiti. v. Union of India [(2010) 12 SCC 609: AIR 2010 SC 2221]”

17. In the State of Madhya Pradesh v. Narmada Bachao Andolan and another [(2011) 7 SCC 639], Apex court had considered a similar question. Paragraphs 8, 10 to 13 and 16 are relevant to the context, which read thus:

“8. It is a settled proposition of law that a party has to plead its case and produce/adduce sufficient evidence to substantiate the averments made in the petition and in case the pleadings are not complete the Court is under no obligation to entertain the pleas.

10. Pleadings and particulars are required to enable the court to decide the rights of the parties in the trial. Thus, the pleadings are more to help the court in narrowing the controversy involved and to inform the parties concerned to the question(s) in issue, so that the parties may adduce appropriate evidence on the said issue. It is a settled legal proposition that "as a rule relief not founded on the pleadings should not be granted." Therefore, a decision of a case cannot be based on grounds outside the pleadings of the parties.

11. The object and purpose of pleadings and issues is to ensure that the litigants come to trial with all issues clearly defined and to prevent cases being expanded or grounds being shifted during trial. If any factual or legal issue, despite having merit, has not been raised by the parties, the court should not decide the same as the opposite counsel does not have a fair opportunity to answer the line of reasoning adopted in that regard. Such a judgment may be violative of the principles of natural justice. (Vide: Ram Sarup Gupta. v. Bishun Narain Inter-College [(1987) 2 SCC 555: AIR 1987 SC 1242; and Kalyan Singh Chouhan v. C.P. Joshi [(2011) 11 SCC 687: AIR 2011 SC 1127).

12. It cannot be said that the rules of procedural law do not apply in PIL. The caution is always added that every technicality in the procedural law is not available as a defence in such proceedings when a matter of grave public importance is for consideration before the Court. (Vide: Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendera v. State of U.P. [1989 Supp (1) SCC 504 : AIR 1988 SC 2187).

13. Strict rules of pleading may not apply in PIL, however, there must be sufficient material in the petition on the basis of which Court may proceed. The PIL litigant has to lay a factual foundation for his averments on the basis of which such a person claims the reliefs. The information furnished by him should not be vague and indefinite. Proper pleadings are necessary to meet the requirements of the principles of natural justice. Even in PIL, the litigant cannot approach the Court to have a fishing or roving enquiry. He cannot claim to have a chance to establish his claim. However, the technicalities of the rules of pleading cannot be made applicable vigorously. Pleadings prepared by a layman must be construed generously as he lacks standard of accuracy and precision particularly when a legal wrong is caused to a determinate class. (Vide: A. Hamsaveni v. State of Tamil Nadu (1994) 6 SCC 51: 1994 SCC (L&S) 1277: (1994) 28 ATC 240), Ashok Kumar Pandey v. State of West Bengal [(2004) 3 SCC 349: (2011) 1 SCC (Cri) 865: AIR 2004 SC 280; Prabir Kumar Das v. State of Orissa [(2005) 13 SCC 452]; and A. Abdul Farook v. Municipal Council, Perambalur (2009) 15 SCC 351).

16. In view of the above, it is evident that there were no pleadings before the High Court on the basis of which the writ petition could be entertained/decided. Thus, it was liable to be rejected at the threshold for the reason that the writ petition suffered for want of proper pleadings and material to substantiate the averments/allegations contained therein. Even in the case of a PIL, such a course could not be available to the writ Petitioners.

18. In Chandra Prakash Singh and others v. Chairman, Purvanchal Gramin Bank & others (2008) 12 SCC 292), the Apex Court had occasion to consider the question of the burden of proof vis-a-vis the allegations of mala fide and it is held as follows in paragraph 19:

18. “19. Thus, as a proposition of law, the burden of proving mala fide is very heavy on the person who alleges it. Mere allegation is not enough. Party making such allegations is under the legal obligation to place specific materials before the Court to substantiate the said allegations. There has to be very strong and convincing evidence to establish the allegations of mala fides specifically and definitely alleged in the petition as the same cannot merely be presumed. The presumption under law is in favour of the bona fides of the order unless contradicted by acceptable material. In the present case, no specific and definite real danger of bias has been made against respondent No. 10 to indicate how he was in a position to influence or manipulate the result of the written test conducted by the Banking Institute, Mumbai. There are no specific pleadings nor any proof thereof in the writ petition filed by the appellants. In such circumstances, the Court is under no obligation to entertain the pleas of mala fide or arbitrariness. In the backdrop of the facts and circumstances of the present case and in the light of the settled law, we agree with the reasoning recorded by the High Court that there are no proper pleadings nor there is any other evidence brought on record by the appellants to substantiate the sweeping, bald and unfounded allegation of mala fide alleged against respondent No. 10 - Sri Zameer Hasan.”

19. So much so, even if assuming that certificates were issued on the basis of belated applications, was the writ petitioner entitled to press in to service the negative equality enabling the writ petitioner to secure any direction on the basis of the alleged issuance of a certificate of ownership. The said question was considered by the Apex Court in Union of India and another v. International Trading Co. and another [2003 (5) SCC 437], in regard to the legitimate expectation of renewal of licence for fishing on the basis of the licences issued in violation of Maritime Zones of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act, 1981 and the Rules thereto and held as follows in paragraph 13:

13. What remains now to be considered, is the effect of permission granted to the 32 vessels. As highlighted by learned counsel for the appellants, even if it is accepted that there was any improper permission, that may render such permissions vulnerable so far as 32 vessels are concerned. But it cannot come to the aid of respondents. It is not necessary to deal with that aspect because two wrongs do not make one right. A party cannot claim that since something wrong has been done in another case; direction should be given for doing another wrong. It would not be setting a wrong right, but would be perpetuating another wrong. In such matters there is no discrimination involved. The concept of equal treatment on the logic of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, 1950 (in short 'the Constitution') cannot be pressed into service in such cases. What the concept of equal treatment presupposes is existence of similar legal foothold. It does not countenance repetition of a wrong action to bring both wrongs on a par. Even if hypothetically it is accepted that wrong has been committed in some other cases by introducing a concept of negative equality respondents cannot strengthen their case. They have to establish strength of their case on some other basis and not by claiming negative equality.”

20. In Kastha Niwarak Grahnirman Sahakari Sanstha Maryadit, Indore [(2006) 2 SCC 604], the Apex Court had occasion to consider the allotment of land to an ineligible co-operative society and the claim of the petitioner on such basis, and has held that so far as the allotment of land to ineligible society is concerned even if it is accepted, though specifically denied by the authority to be true, that does not confer any right on the appellant. But, on the other hand, it has to establish the strength of its case on some other basis and not by claiming negative equality. Therefore, the contention advanced on that basis

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by the writ petitioner has no factual or legal foundation. 21. Yet another point that crops up for consideration is whether the court is vested with powers to extend the statutory time limit prescribed for the submission of the application for the ownership certificate. The provisions of Rules 2003, discussed above, would make it clear that a maximum time limit of 180 days was fixed by the Government from the date of notifying the Rules for submitting the application for ownership certificate of any trophy, other forest produce and the like. Such time limit was fixed under the Rules for the purpose of ensuring that only those persons who are already in possession of any trophy or other articles as per the provisions of Act, 1972 shall be given an opportunity to submit an application within the time period prescribed. This is also with the specific purpose of avoiding any possibility of any persons acquiring any trophy or other articles thereafter and submitting an application for securing the ownership certificate. So, the time limit fixed has a laudable object sought to be achieved and therefore, either the administrative authority or the court is vested with powers to extend that period and direct the authorised officer or statutory authority to consider any belated application as per Rules, 2003. 22. Taking into account the proposition of law discussed above, and the provisions of Act, 1972, Rules, 1978 and Rules, 2003, we are of the considered and definite opinion that no relevance can be placed on Exts.P9 and P10 documents produced by the writ petitioner, as observed by the learned single Judge, for issuing a direction to the authorities to consider the application submitted by the writ petitioner. Even assuming that an illegality was committed by the State and its officials by entertaining any application after the cutoff date, that would not enure to the benefit of the writ petitioner to have her belated application considered on the basis of the illegality, committed by the authorities concerned. It is an admitted fact that the application of the writ petitioner was a very belated one, submitted years after the cutoff date prescribed as per Rules, 2003. Therefore, at any stretch of imagination, we are unable to agree with the contention put forth by the learned counsel for the writ petitioner that if any other applications were considered after the cutoff date, the writ petitioner was also entitled to get her application considered. 23. It is also important to note that the certificates were issued by the authority in accordance with the provisions of the Act and Rules specified above and therefore, there is a legal presumption available that they are issued in accordance with law, as provided under Section 114(e) of the Evidence Act. That apart, the writ petitioner has produced only a few of the 109 documents secured by her as per the Right to Information Act for reasons best known to her. Therefore, going by Section 114 (g) of the Evidence Act, it can only be presumed that the evidence which could be and is not produced would, if produced, be unfavourable to the person who withholds it. Being so, there is no legal foundation for the arguments so advanced by the learned counsel for the writ petitioner. In that view of the matter, there is much force in the contentions advanced by the respondent/writ petitioner. 24. Upshot of the discussion is, appellants are entitled to succeed in the appeal. Accordingly, we set aside the judgment of the learned single Judge and dismiss the writ petition. In the result, this appeal is allowed.
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