On Tuesday, 29 March 2022 , the Supreme Court issued notice in a lawsuit challenging the commercial Karwar port's second stage expansion in Karnataka.
A Bench presided over by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana rejected a contention by Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for DVP Infra Projects Limited, that the delay in project would escalate the costs, saying the beaches and environment cannot be destroyed.
The Court was contemplating a special leave petition appealing the Karnataka High Court's decision to dismiss a case challenging the planned development plan on the basis of significant fact concealment.
The said project is undertaken on the banks of the Arabian Sea abutting the Rabindranath Tagore Beach in Karwar.
The petitioners were represented through Senior Advocate Devdatt Kamat, Senior Advocate Murthy D Naik, Advocate Amit Pai and Advocate Rajesh Inamdar.
The Petitioner, a Karwar Fishermen's Association, has filed a petition opposing the Director of Ports and Inland Water Transport's proposed Second Stage Development of the commercial Karwar Port at Baithkol Village, Karwar Taluka, Uttara Kannada District, which is being carried out over a plot area of about 17 ha.
During the hearing today, Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat appearing for the petitioner submitted that the Environmental clearance in the present case has been given by the state and as per Environment Impact Assessment notification it has to be given by the Centre. However, this has been overlooked by the High Court.
The Chief Justice of India questioned the support of the State Government in this case, in response to which Mr Kamat argued that the EIA notification gives the State Government no authority. He went on to say that if it's a category A project, the Centre has the jurisdiction to issue environmental clearance, but if it's a category B project, the State has the right.
The CJI asked if the Centre was a party before the High Court and what was the Centre's stand.
"Yes they were parties. They have not given any stand as HC said state is the authority", Mr Kamat said.
"So centre could have said it is not?", Justice Kohli said.
Mr Kamat urged the Bench to direct that Status quo be maintained and no construction be allowed.
The petitioner claims that the High Court dismissed the case without examining the main problems of the project's impact on the environment, the people of Karwar's fundamental rights under Article 21, and the loss of livelihood of the local fishermen.
The petitioner has stated that in November, 2019, the construction activity for the proposed second stage expansion had commenced without obtaining CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) clearance and other such clearances from KSPCB etc
According to the petitioner, the High Court failed to examine the environmental impact of the 2nd Stage Expansion of the Commercial Karwar Port at Baithkol Village, Karwar, as well as the loss of livelihood of the local fishermen. In response to the case being dismissed owing to concealment of facts, the petitioner claims that the ruling itself states that the land acquisition processes that began in 1962 have no direct bearing on the writ petition at issue.
GENERAL CONDITIONS IN THE EIA NOTIFICATION
According to the petitioner, any project or activity in a notified eco-sensitive area (ESA), even if listed in Category 'B,' would be considered as Category 'A' under the General Conditions in the EIA Notification dated 14.09.2006. Furthermore, all projects in Category 'A' "shall require prior environmental clearance from the Central Government in the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to be constituted by the Central Government for the purposes of this notification," according to the notification.
Coastal Regulation Zone
It has been submitted that by a notification dated 06.01.2011, the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change issued a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, for the declaration of the coastal stretches as Costal Regulations Zones. In the said CRZ Notification, it was again categorically stated that Karwar was within the meaning of Critical Vulnerable Coastal Area (CVCA). This position remains unchanged even in the CRZ Notification dated 18.01.2019.
ORDER OF THE COURT
The Court while addressing Senior Advocate Maninder Singh appearing for DVP Infra Projects Private Ltd, the CJI said, "Mr Singh please tell your clients not to make any construction”.