Tuesday 26 Sep 2023

City resort case: HC pulls up Goa Foundation, slaps fine

Rules petition amounted to abuse of process of law


The Bombay High Court at Goa has dismissed a contempt petition filed by the Goa Foundation, who had alleged that the failure of the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority to demolish a retaining wall built by the city resort, that was found to be in violation of the CRZ amounted to contempt of court. 

The High Court while dismissing the petition said that the petition amounted to abuse of the process of law and also imposed costs on the Goa Foundation to the tune of Rs 50,000. 

Speaking to reporters, Adv Nitin Sardesai said that the GCZMA had rightly interpreted the judgement of the High Court, which ordered the demolitions, pointing out to riders in the HC judgement which asked that care should be taken to ensure that there is no erosion or environmental damage as a result of the demolitions. 

“The High Court had passed orders years back saying that there are certain portions of the city resort which were illegal and they ought to be demolished and had directed the GCZMA to give the parties a hearing and find out which part of the structures were in violation of the CRZ regulations,” Adv Sardesai explained. 

“The authority decided that there were three structures -- part of the swimming pool, part of a hut and part of retaining wall which actually had offended the CRZ directions. When the HC passed those directions, the HC was also wary of the fact that removal of the retaining wall may amount to environmental damage by itself. So they had put a rider -- that when the authorities try to remove these structures, care should be taken that erosion of soil and siltation of the river does not take place,” he said. 

“Accordingly, the GCZMA sought expert advice from the Jal Shakti Ministry to find out if the retaining wall or part of the retaining wall that offends the CRZ directions -- whether it is going to cause erosion. Now an exhaustive report was prepared by the Jal Shakti Ministry and they found that if this retaining wall is removed the way the Goa Foundation wants it, then it’s bound to lead to environmental disaster. It is going to spoil the entire beach stretch near the city resort as also across the river,” he added. 

“So they decided that they will not remove that part of the retaining wall. And it was, according to them and rightly so, in tune with the HC judgement, which said that when you take any of these actions you’ve to see that soil erosion does not take place.”

“The HC heard the matter and felt that this was gross abuse of the process of the court by Goa Foundation, dismissed the contempt petition and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000,” he said. 

Earlier, the HC had pulled up the GCZMA for trying to save the city resort by even drawing the HTL deep into the river and had asked the NCZMA to conduct the exercise.  

Back in 2018, the Bombay High Court at Goa has quashed and set aside the decision and report of the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority which has tried to save the city resort from demolition for violating the provisions of the Coastal Regulation Zone, by claiming the absence of data of the High Tide Line for the year 1991 and assuming constant erosion over the years.

In the year 1993, the Goa Foundation filed a Writ Petition No. 333 of 1993 making a grievance that the city resort breached the Coastal Regulation Zone restrictions. In 2014 the Court directed the authorities to draw a line parallel to the high tide line from the Lighthouse, an existing structure nearby. The authorities were to determine whether any construction of the city resort falls towards the river side of this line. After that to take necessary action against the city resort. The city resort was directed to take all measures to prevent the erosion of the sandbank and the siltation of the river. The city resort was directed to remove the obstructions to the access of the public to the beach.

The authorities in the first report, concluded that the construction was not towards the river side of the Imaginary Line drawn from the Lighthouse parallel to the High Water Line along the river. However, ruling on an application filed by the Goa Foundation, the High Court rejected the earlier report and observed that the basis taken of High Water Line was not as per the directions issued in the Judgment. The High Tide Line will have to be identified as per the provisions of the Act and the CRZ Notification of 1991. The Bench also observed that it is the task of the GCZMA. Thereafter the Division Bench, by order dated 3 July 2017, granted application for extension of time to comply with the directions.

In a fresh report, the GCZMA observed that there is no authentic record of the High Tide Line  of the year 1991. It marked the High Tide Line for the year 1991 assuming that there has been continuous erosion on a yearly basis from 1973 to 2017. It calculated the average shift in the High Tide Line in the last 43 years. It then calculated the cumulative shift in the High Tide Line 1973 to 1991 i.e for a period of 18 years. It was concluded that no construction of the city resort is towards the riverside of the imaginary line. It was thus concluded that no action needs to be taken in respect of the city resort.

The Goa Foundation approached the court contending that the report is a complete eyewash and filed a public interest litigation petition against it.

Goa Foundation says will abide by HC rules and pay fine

PANAJI: Expressing surprise over the High Court’s judgement in dismissing its contempt petition and slapping it with a fine of Rs 50,000, the Goa Foundation finds it plainly unjust and susceptible to challenge.

The Foundation said it is awaiting a copy of the order before it decides on what further action is to be taken in the matter.

The Foundation, however, is a loyal soldier of the judicial system and will abide by its rules and pay the fine.

The Foundation further said that it will pursue the demolition of the wall in front of the city resort which was ordered by the High Court in order to restore the full Gaspar Dias beach to the public.

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