The Honourable High Court of Andhra Pradesh, on 22/05/2020, has struck down G.O. 623 issued by the Government of Andhra Pradesh, to paint government buildings including and not limited to water tanks in green , white, Blue and terracotta. The Hon’ble High Court while quashing the G.O has sought an explanation as to why contempt proceedings shouldn’t be initiated against the State Government, as it failed to comply with the orders of both the Apex court and the interim order of A.P.High Court dtd 13/12/2019.
In December the 2019, the incumbent government got issued a note through the Ministry of Panchayat Raj, to paint all government offices in white blue and green. The incumbent government has introduced the concept of village secretariats with effect from October 2 2019, and all the gram panchayat buildings have been converted into village secretariats. This note was just in anticipation of the local body elections. The Government submits that the colours used are not the colours of a particular party. Rejecting the contention, the Court asks to produce flags of all parties active in A.P. On hearing a PIL filed, The Hon’ble High Court on 13 December 2019 issued an interim order, “the gram panchayat office buildings were government properties and it was not correct to paint them with party colours. The court said irrespective of which party was in power, no government should use party colours for public properties”. In a significant observation, the HC held that it had become a common practice for any political party to paint the buildings of panchayat or others akin to the colours of the party flag, & directed that such practices should stop. It also held that the National Building Code applies to the buildings of Panchayat Raj also as they fall within the purview of local Self-Govt & constructed with Govt funds.
The HC ordered that the use of impermissible signs can't be permitted to be used in future & said such actions might affect the conduct of free & fair elections”. On Tuesday, the High Court of Andhra Pradesh directed the Govt. to restrain from painting Govt/Panchayat buildings with colours similar to the ones of flags of political parties or party offices. It also ordered the Chief secretary to form a committee and decide on what colours are to be preferred.
The High Court as part of the interim order had asked the Principal Secretary, Panchayat Raj Department, to remove the colours painted on the buildings within ten days & directed the Chief Secretary to furnish a compliance report within 2 weeks to the Court Registrar. The Government of Andhra Pradesh preferred an appeal over this order in the Apex Court. The Apex court confirmed the order of the Hon’ble High Court.
The Government of Andhra Pradesh preferred to issue one more G.O. no 623, retaining the colours mentioned in G.O. 622, with an added colour terracotta. Painting of government buildings and water tanks resumes. This G.O. is challenged in a Public Interest Litigation, on grounds that it violates the National Building Code, which is applicable to government buildings also. The argument in support of the G.O tendered on behalf of the Government is that they have not disrespected the order of the courts, three colours signify three programmes run by the government, with the added colour terracotta representing Earth element.. Rejecting the argument tendered by the government, the court considers the action of the government as abject disrespect to the courts, quashes the G.O. and gives time till 28th May 2020 to implement the order of removal of party colours or give an explanation as to why it cant be done.
This is a classic case of what J.Bhagawati says “A constitutional authority cannot do indirectly what it is not permitted to do directly. If there is a constitutional provision inhibiting the constitutional authority from doing an act, such provision cannot be allowed to be defeated by adoption of any subterfuge”.
Dr. wadhwa & ors vs. State of Bihar