Tuesday 28 Sep 2021

HC sets 4-week deadline to raze Sunburn Club



The Bombay High Court at Goa has in a stern judgement, ordered the demolition of Sunburn Beach Club at Ozran in Anjuna within four weeks while noting the “sorry state of affairs” in allowing the “brazenly illegal” club to continue operations for nearly two years and delaying action in the matter.

Hearing a petition filed by Den Liquor House LLP and Waters Beach Lounge & Grill Pvt Ltd who operated the Sunburn Beach Club since 2018, the High Court rejected the claims of the operators of the Club that they were eligible for an ex-post facto regularization of their structure under the office memorandum issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MEFC).

“The reports speak about massive illegalities carried out by the petitioners by putting new and permanent structures, in gross disregard to practically every legal provision and the use of such illegal and unauthorized construction for large-scale commercial activities,” single judge bench of Justice M S Sonak, said.

The High Court found that the petitioners seeking relief before the Court were serial violators having “repeatedly put up massive illegal structures in a highly eco-sensitive NDZ.”

They have done this without bothering to apply or obtain permissions from the GCZMA, or for that matter, other authorities. Even if one set of constructions, which had degraded the environment in the highly eco-sensitive NDZ was purportedly razed to the ground; they have brazenly put up yet another set of constructions on the same spot,” the High Court observed.

“This is not some case of constructions being put up by poor people to provide themselves with some shelter or some fisherfolk repairing their small huts in fishing hamlets. This is a massive structure put up… for their commercial activities of a bar, restaurant, and nightclub. Such serial and deliberate violators of environmental laws cannot claim the indulgence of regularization or for that matter, seek any assistance from the writ court,” the High Court ruled.

“What is surprising in this matter, however, is that the Authorities like Panchayat, Tourism Department, FDA, Excise Department, also supported the commercial activities undertaken through these massive illegal constructions put up in a highly eco-sensitive NDZ. The GCZMA had to ultimately direct all these Authorities to revoke the permissions,” the High Court observed.

“All this creates an impression that the Petitioners are now accustomed to putting up such massive illegal and unauthorized structures in the said property during the tourist season and thereafter delay the proceedings before few authorities which dare to take action or, are forced to take action under public pressure. Once the tourist season concludes, the Petitioners give undertakings of demolition and there is no clear material whether such undertakings are actually complied with or not. This is an extremely sorry state of affairs,” the High Court said.

“This petition is liable to be dismissed and is, hereby, dismissed. The Petitioners have reneged on their undertakings to demolish the unauthorized structures therefore, the GCZMA will now have to carry out the demolitions at the cost of the Petitioners within four weeks and file a compliance report in this Court soon thereafter,” the High Court ruled.

The High Court also noted that the GCZMA 'unsealed’ the premises even after initially sealing the premises after the operators applied for de-sealing of the illegal structures claiming that such de-sealing was necessary to remove perishables.

“The Member Secretary of the GCZMA, on his own, without reference to the GCZMA, made orders for de-sealing sometime in December 2020… based [the petitioners] on such de-sealing, advertised and held new year parties in the illegal constructions, again for commercial gains…. All this is quite disturbing, to say the least,” the High Court noted.

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