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Thirunagar Panchayat by its Executive Officer, Madurai v/s Thirunagar Cooperative House Constructions Society Limited, Madurai

Company & Directors' Information:- D V HOUSE CONSTRUCTIONS PVT LTD [Strike Off] CIN = U45200TG1981PTC003208

Company & Directors' Information:- EXECUTIVE CONSTRUCTIONS LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U45201MP1986PLC003483

    S.A.No.435 of 1990

    Decided On, 07 June 2002

    At, High Court of Judicature at Madras


    P.Arivudaiya Nambi, for Appellant. Mrs.Hema Sampath, for Respondent.

Judgment Text

The defendant in the suit is the appellant.

2. The case in brief is as follows: The plaintiff Thirunagar Cooperative House Constructions Society Limited filed a suit against the defendant Thirunagar Town Panchayat for permanent injunction restraining the Panchayat and its officers and their men from in any way interfering with the plaintiff's possession and enjoyment of the water works in Thirunagar colony. Thirunagar colony has been formed by the Society and there are about 800 houses belonging to the members of the society. The society has constructed overhead water tank, dug wells for the supply of drinking water to the members of the society and water is supplied through pipeline to the houses in Thirunagar colony. The water supply is given only to its members who have constructed houses in the Thirunagar colony. The general public or outsiders are not entitled to water supply. The plaintiff has been maintaining the same all these years without any sort of complaint. The water works do not belong to the defendant Panchayat or to the Government. It is the privilege of the members of the society to the exclusive user of the water supplied by the society through pipeline. The water will be sufficient for the members only. The defendant Panchayat cannot also maintain the water works in the manner in which it is being maintained by the society. If the Panchayat is likely to take the water works, then the members of the society will be seriously jeopardised. The Panchayat has no right to take over the same and they do not vest in the Panchayat also. Without notice to the plaintiff, the Panchayat has created records as if the water works vest with them and they are trying to take over possession of the same. Natural justice and equity require that when the property is sought to be taken over from the owners, proper notice should be given to them and compensation also has to be paid. The defendant Panchayat is hurriedly attempting to take forcible possession of the water works from the plaintiff society and hence the suit. The water works in Thirunagar Panchayat is at present maintained by the House construction Society. Although the overhead tank and the wells are situated in the property belonging to the society, the pipelines vested in the Town Panchayat. The society is maintaining 9 wells and the water to the society members is supplied through these wells. The Panchayat is also maintaining one well and the water is taken from this well through the pipeline laid in the public streets but the water charges are collected by the plaintiff society. The plaintiff cannot claim any special privilege and exclusive service of supply of defendant Panchayat alone is supplying water through cart, lorry and tractor for all the houses situated in Thirunagar. For the supply of water to tall the houses including to the society houses, the defendant is spending about Rs.50,000 to Rs.60,000 per year. The Panchayat requested the society to hand over the water works by a resolution dated 20.7.1983. The Thirunagar Panchayat was upgraded to Town Panchayat on 27.7.1984 and the Executive Authority assumed charge on 13.8.1984. They proposed to take the water works maintained by the society and the Executive Officer also issued notice, but there was no reply from the society. The proposal to take over the water works ws published in the District Gazette dated 12.11.1985 and objections were called for, but none raised objection. There is statutory vesting of water works in the Panchayat and the Panchayat is empowered to take over the water works from the society. The suit is liable to be dismissed.

The trial Court framed 6 issues and on behalf of the plaintiff society P.W.1 was examined, Exs.A-1 to A-5 were marked. On the side of the defendant Panchayat, Exs.B-1 to B-5 were marked. The trial Court dismissed the suit and aggrieved against this, the plaintiff preferred A.S. No.199 of 1988 on the file of Principal District Court, Madurai and the learned Judge after hearing the parties, allowed the appeal, set aside the judgment and decree of the trial Court and decreed the suit. Aggrieved against this, the defendant has come forward with the present second appeal.

3. At the time of admission, the only substantial question of law as framed by this Court is whether the lower appellate Court is correct in coming to the conclusion that Sec.84 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act would not be applicable to take over water works i.e., suit overhead tank, wells and the plaintiff's society water pipelines which go through the street roads vested in the appellant Panchayatě

4. Heard the learned counsel for the parties.

5. It is not in dispute that the plaintiff society has built houses to the members. The society had also constructed overhead tank and dug wells for the supply of drinking water to the members through the pipeline laid underneath the streets said to have been vested with the Panchayat. Admittedly, the overhead tank and wells are situated in the lands belonging to the society. Now, the defendant Panchayat wants to take the overhead water tank and wells and entire system regarding the water works relying upon Sec.84 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act. The learned counsel for the appellant/ defendant contended that by virtue of Sec.84 of the said Act, all public water courses, reservoirs, tanks, cisterns, fountain, wells, stand pipes and other water works (including those used by the public to such an extent as to give a prescriptive right to their use) shall vest in the Panchayat and be subject to its control. Only if the appellant is able to establish that there was statutory vesting of the water force, then only they can succeed.

6. Learned counsel for the respondent contended that Sec.84 of the Act has no application to the case on hand. It is not a public water course, but it is only a private water supply intended to benefit the members of the plaintiff society. Simply because the pipelines are laid underneath the streets said to be vesting with the Panchayat, it cannot be said that the water works also shall vest with the Panchayat. No doubt, during summer season the defendant Panchayat supplied water to the members of the society also. If the Panchayat has not collected any amount, it is always open to the Panchayat to collect the amount from the society for the water supplied to the members. There are number of wells dug up by the plaintiff society in their own place and they have also put up overhead tank and they are maintained by them. The word ?public? used in Sec.84 cannot be made use of to take the wells dug up and the overhead tank put up by the society exclusively for their members. The entire Section has to be read together so as to arrive at the intention of the framers of the Legislation.

7. Learned counsel for the appellant/ defendant contended that the lower appellate Court failed to note that all the public roads vested with the Panchayat. In fact, the society already passed a resolution to hand over the overhead tank by the resolution No.4 dated 20.1.1983. Even if the water distributions taken over by the Panchayat, it would benefit to all the citizens of the Thirunagar Panchayat and they will get the protected water supply. As per Sec.63(g) of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act, it shall be the duty of the Panchayat to give protected water for drinking purpose and also to maintain the same. The water distribution system was taken over only after duly publishing the notifications in the District Gazette dated 12.11.1985. Moreover, the Panchayat had already supplied the drinking water to all the members of the society at the time of acute water scarcity and for which, the defendant Panchayat had spent Rs.75,000 and admittedly the Panchayat had not collected any tax from the members of the society.

8. As adverted to, only if the appellant Panchayat is able to establish that there was

statutory vesting of the overhead tanks, they can succeed in the appeal. At one point of time, it appears that the society could have passed a resolution for entrusting the maintenance of the overhead tanks, wells etc. to the Panchayat, but apart from that, there is nothing to show that there was actually any handing over of possession. The Panchayat has not even made any offer for payment of compensation to the plaintiff society for taking over the overhead tanks and other connected materials. When admittedly the water works belongs only to the society, the Panchayat cannot appropriate it even without any compensation. There was already a litigation between the plaintiff and the defendant with regard to the earlier attempt by the Panchayat to take over the amenities provided by the plaintiff and the matter went up to the Apex Court in C.A. No.374 of 1965. The society was granted permanent injunction with regard to the amenities provided by the society and only the streets can be taken over. It was held that the scope of Sec.58 of the Panchayat Act cannot be extended to includes parks, playgrounds, schools, libraries and other public places which were provided by the society for the benefit of the Thirunagar colony. It is only under such circumstance, the lower appellate Court rightly cam

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e to the conclusion that there was no statutory vesting of overhead tanks and wells belong to the plaintiff society. If water is required for the public, it is always open to the Panchayat to request the plaintiff society to supply the same at nominal cost. Similarly, if the Panchayat supplies water to the members of the society, the Panchayat also can collect the necessary tax from the members. Simply because the road formed by the society is vested with the Panchayat, for the purpose of maintenance, it cannot be stretched to include that the pipeline running underneath the street also will vest with the Panchayat and ultimately the overhead tank and the wells from where the water is supplied will also vest with the Panchayat. I am of the view that the imagination of the Panchayat is far-fetched and the reasoning given by the lower appellate Court for decreeing the suit is proper and correct and no interference is called for. 9. For the reasons stated above, the second appeal fails and is dismissed. No costs.