Clearing the decks for allotment of beach shacks, the High Court of Bombay at Goa on Monday set aside the order of the principle bench of the National Green Tribunal, which had on September 13 stayed the implementation of the beach shack policy.
The division bench of the High Court also directed the state government to prepare and finalise the coastal zone management policy as early as possible – preferably by the date given by the NGT.
The Shack Owners Welfare Society and the state government had filed petitions challenging the NGT order that had stayed the implementation of the beach shack policy.
Permitting the implementation of beach shack policy 2019-2022, the HC observed that shacks have existed for decades in the state of Goa, and that there is no evidence of shacks causing destruction as they
are built of eco-friendly material and are also seasonal structures.
The HC also said that it permits the implementation of the beach shack policy keeping in mind the fact that employment of several people in the state is dependent on the shacks.
The petitioners contended that the bar of alternate remedy would not apply in the present petitions because the petitioners were not afforded an opportunity of hearing on the issue of operation of shack policy or otherwise for the years 2019-2022. It was the case of the petitioners that the impugned order was made on an application made by the state government seeking extension of time for finalising the CZMP.
The petitioners submitted that the state government faced several difficulties in finalisation of the CZMP and therefore, some reasonable extension was required to be granted.
It was also the case of the petitioners that the issue of finalisation of the CZMP and the operation of shack policy have no direct nexus with one and another, particularly because the operation of the shack policy is governed by paragraph 3 of the CRZ Notification of 2011 which permits and regulates the activity of erection of purely temporary and seasonal constructions customarily put up between the months of September to May every year.
The petitioners pointed out that paragraph 3(iii)(a) further posits that such constructions need not even be removed and dismantled during the months of June to August provided the shacks remain nonoperational during the months of June to August.
The petitioners pointed out that the beach shack policy 2019-2022 has already been approved by the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority on August 24, 2019. They pointed out that in terms of the HC orders as well as the orders issued by the NGT itself, the shack policy has been finalised in consultation with the GCZMA, so that all environmental issues are suitably addressed.
They pointed out that the impugned direction restraining the operation of the shack policy is in fact without jurisdiction, and that is yet another ground why the bar of alternate remedy may not apply.
The HC during the earlier hearing had permitted the state government to proceed with operation of the shack policy up to the extent prior to the actual allotment of shacks.
The HC had observed that taking into consideration the fact that the beach shack policy has been operated for all these years and cognisance of such operation has also been statutorily noticed in paragraph 3 of CRZ Notification, 2011, we feel that the state can be allowed to take steps for operation of the shack policy up to the stage of actual allotment of shacks.
The HC had during the earlier hearing had further observed that this was because it had been informed that for the shacks to operate there are several preliminary steps involved including but not restricted to invitation of applications and issuance of allotment orders.
“According to us, no point would be served in restraining such activities. However, no actual allotment of shacks or commencement of operation therein can be permitted until further orders,” the HC had said.