Kerala HC: Panchayat’s Permission to Set Up Industrial Units Exempted if Power Is Less Than 5

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Kerala HC directes Central Government

On the 11th day of June 2021, the Honourable High Court of Kerala disposed of a Civil Writ Petition in which the Petitioner had sought a prohibitory order of performing unauthorized furniture manufacturing adjacent to the residential area. The matter was decided by the Single Judge Bench of Honourable Justice P.B. Suresh Kumar.

Facts

The Petitioner was the resident of the land whose adjacent building was owned by the sixth Respondent company, which converted the small piece of land to a manufacturing unit. In the year 1990, the Petitioner’s husband purchased the land but were the residents in the premise only after the year 2006.

Whereas the sixth Respondent owned the land in the year 1999 and was said to be performing the business activity/manufacturing unit of furniture, even before the settlement of the Petitioners. This manufacturing unit located just 10 meters away from the Petitioner’s residence caused the problem of noise pollution to the Petitioners, as there was a heavy machinery sound affecting the residential area. This was brought to the notice of the local ombudsman known for sorting out issues but later was forwarded to the Secretariat of the Panchayat as per the ombudsman’s suggestion. 

The Panchayat considered the grievance caused and examined the records to verify the claim of unauthorized activity, as per the Petitioner. On the grounds of records, the Panchayat rejected the Petitioner’s claim of activity unauthorized but suggested the sixth Respondent to cut down the working hours from 9 AM to 4 PM. This resulted in the filing of a Civil Writ Petition before the Honourable High Court of Kerala, where the Petitioner prayed for direction. The nature of direction sought was against the Secretariat, for revoking the license given and stopping the industrial activity in the residential area. 

Arguments by the Petitioner

The Petitioner i.e., Sneha Shivaprasad fought the case all by herself by placing her arguments before the Honourable Judge. The Petitioner laid out their main ground as unauthorized activity and further supported her claim with the help of certain documents. These documents according to the Petitioner, were the license obtained for the earlier place from where the manufacturing unit was shifted to a new place.

The Petitioner also put forth the point that the sixth Respondent had not obtained the necessary permission as prescribed in Section 233 of the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994. Placing these issues front, the Petitioner claimed that the noise due to industrial machinery has been the cause of miserable lifestyle in the locality. 

Arguments by the Respondents

The Respondents were represented by Government pleaders and standing counsels for the state authorities. The counsel for the sixth Respondent claimed that the Respondent has indulged in the business even before the Petitioner and was completely authorized by the state authorities.

The sixth Respondents relied on records submitted by the State Pollution Board, Panchayat and Forest Department to show that the manufacturing unit was completely authorized. All the licenses were showcased before the Bench to contradict the claim of the Petitioner. The counsels also placed on record the new renewed license granted by the State Pollution Board extending the validity of business till 2024. Other Respondents supported this claim of the sixth Respondent and none other counsel put forth any significant argument. 

Court’s Observation

The Court after recording the Petitioner and Respondents arguments placed reliance on the main issue of whether the industrial unit was unauthorized or not. The Court considered the records and submission by the Respondents and laid down that the Petitioner’s claim of unauthorized functioning of the industrial unit does not hold true.

It was based on the fact that the sixth Respondent had never shifted the unit as per the records of the Panchayat. Hence the relief sought by the Petitioner was rejected as both unauthorized activity and the question of premises were found to be a false claim. It also observed that the industrial unit with less than 5 HP power is exempted from obtaining permission from the Panchayat. 

Court’s Judgement

The Single Judge Bench of the Honourable High Court of Kerala disposed of the Civil Writ Petition directing the Panchayat to examine whether the industrial unit used by the Sixth Respondent was less than 5 HP power or more. No relief was granted to the Petitioner except that the Court ordered the Respondent to comply with the timings of 9 AM to 4 PM.


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