Thursday 18 Apr 2024

SC move to save Anjuna structures not convincing

| FEBRUARY 20, 2024, 11:59 PM IST

The hustle and bustle of Anjuna went amiss for a short time on Monday as shops and establishments remained shut as part of a bandh call to voice concern over the sealing of 175 illegal establishments as directed by the High Court. The issue, however, took a political turn instantaneously as political leaders descended on the turf and sympathised with protestors who threatened to go against the BJP in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Sensing that the issue could spiral out of hand at a crucial time, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, in a damage-control move, assured aggrieved people to protect valid businesses and announced that the government would challenge the Bombay High Court order before the Supreme Court.

In an interesting twist, the chief minister said that wrong information was presented by the Anjuna Panchayat and Panchayat Secretary before the High Court.

The case in question is that 175 business establishments were found to violate the CRZ rules, and without any construction papers, occupancy certificates, trade licenses and other permissions to conduct business. It has become evident before the court that the secretary played a crucial role in the illegalities, and any argument of the panchayat and its secretary misrepresenting pales out. The institution of the panchayat and its secretary represent the government, and so does the advocate general who made no such mention during his arguments.

In fact, the secretary and the panchayat cut out a sorry figure before the court and could not even explain the basis on which illegalities were allowed. The Anjuna panchayat had informed the High Court that it has prime facie identified 275 illegal structures in the No Development Zone of which 100 were issued demolition notices and 18 had already been demolished. Are we to believe that the State is going to contest a piece of data furnished by its official? It is intriguing how the State would go about convincing the Supreme Court that its facts were misplaced.

If there is any resolution at this point, it should be through a legislative cure, not a judicial route. With a double-engine government, the State should move the Centre to consider Goa’s case sympathetically and bring about appropriate amendments to the law, either by keeping the CRZ timeline in mind or any other pertinent parameter that could cushion stakeholders in the State. The State government should put convincing arguments before the Centre that the CRZ law in its present form is affecting stakeholders and livelihoods.

As things stand, the illegalities are as clear as daylight, and there would be very limited scope for getting a reprieve through systemic fault-finding before the Supreme Court. On the contrary, the government runs the risk of escalating the matter further and making the road to resolution even more difficult to navigate.

Sawant has used a quick fix to douse the flames of rebellion that may eventually not work, but it certainly will give him breathing space. Probably, that’s the best he could do to keep the tempers down till elections take place. The CM must bear in mind that while he has an uphill road to resolution, he also faces the dilemma of setting a new template for the thousands of illegalities that are spread thick and wide across the coast of Goa.

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