Observing that the Maharashtra government has adopted a 'pick and choose policy' in appointing administrators to look after the functioning of the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) across the state only to 'maintain political balance', the Bombay High Court on Monday quashed orders refusing to grant an extension to eight district APMCs including the one in Aurangabad.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Gangapurwala and Shrikant Kulkarni said, "The pick and choose policy seems to have been adopted by the state while granting an extension to certain APMCs. There is reason to doubt such exercise of discretionary powers by the state in view of the factual matrix."
The bench noted that the state while granting extensions to the APMCs in Buldhana, Parbhani, Satara, Jalgaon, Gondia, Raver, Bhusawal, Parola and Yawal, gave 'a red-carpet treatment by extending their tenure by six months.' "Some APMCs are treated with stepmotherly treatment by refusing to extend their tenure ignoring the facts that these APMCs are not found indulged in malpractices," the judges observed.
The bench further said that the authorities seem to have failed to apply their minds before taking a final call on the issue. The judges also took into consideration the fact that the authorities did not assign any reason for not extending the tenure of several APMCs and at the same time while appointing an administrator over a few of them.
"It appears that it is a case of colourable exercise of the powers by the state government to maintain political balance and favour certain APMCs," the bench held.
"The factual scenario arising out of respective petitions of APMCs has projected a picture that the State has used its discretionary powers in an arbitrary and capricious manner. This action of Maharashtra is nothing but a pick and choose policy as per its convenience. There is no rationale behind it," the judges said.
While quashing aside the orders of appointing administrators, the judges said that "a uniform decision by the state on the subject as a policy matter is required. But no policy decision seems to have been taken by the state with regard to the pros and cons of the impugned decisions regarding the appointment of Administrators.
"We have no manner of doubt to arrive at the conclusion that impugned decisions are an outcome of the colourable exercise of powers and do not sustain in the eyes of law. Those decisions need to be quashed and set aside," the judges concluded.