Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cidade de Goa - the great escape?

The five star resort Cidade de Goa currently seems to have got a breather. Courtesy, the ordinance of the Government of Goa which cidade incidentally changed a 114 year old law bringing relief to the five star hotel whose partial demolition had been ordered by the supreme court of India last month.

So what exactly is the story behind the whole saga? Claude Alvares of Goa foundation who was part of the bunch of public interest petitions challenging the closure of public access to the Vainguinim beach by the hotel has written in the letters to the editor of the Herald newspaper which details the story as under:

On 20 Jan 2009, the Supreme Court of India dismissed a batch of three appeals filed by Fomento Resorts, owners of Cidade de Goa, a five-star resort. The Court found the hotel had violated the provisions of a land acquisition agreement which it had signed with the Goa government regarding the use of a plot of land the government had acquired for the hotel for creation of sports facilities for the public.

Instead of erecting the sports facilities, the resort owners had illegally extended the main building of the hotel so that it now formed a significant part of the acquired plot. The area of illegal extension is 1114 sq m. Since the hotel had constructed three storeys on the 1114 sq m, the total extension today at site is actually 4500 sq m. In this illegally built area, the hotel had installed 50 residential rooms, in addition to a convention centre, a health club and a beauty parlour. All these must now be demolished.

Outside, in the balance of the plot, the hotel had erected a laundry building, extension to the laundry building, boiler room, cluster of open air bars, sheds, store-rooms and kitchen. These must be demolished as well. Some of this construction was actually done to block a traditional access to the beach for the public, which the hotel had pledged to keep open in its agreement with the government.

The Supreme Court has upheld the Bombay High Court judgement which had clearly required the public access to be maintained. Since the appeals filed by the hotel have been dismissed, the remaining directions issued by the High Court in its judgement will also now be implemented. One of these requires the Goa government to issue a notice to the company for resumption of the land itself for violation of the terms of the agreement.

The Supreme Court has set a time frame within which its various directions in respect of the pathway and the demolition of the illegal extension must be carried out. Within one month, all obstructions to the pathway must be removed. The demolition of the structures listed in the High Court’s order and in the order of the Supreme Court must be done within three months. A compliance report must be filed by the Fomento Resorts in the Bombay High Court after the expiry of the period to indicate to the Court that the directions have been carried out.

However on Saturday, the 28th of February 2009, the government of Goa notified an ordinance which is deemed to have come into force with effect from October 15 1964 when the Land acquisition Act 1894 was made applicable to Goa. The ordinance has amended section 41 of the act by inserting four clauses in the section.

The amendment seeks to validate the development and construction done by the company as being undertaken in accordance with the agreement.

However this move to bypass the Supreme court order has brought in sharp criticism from various NGOs such as the GBA and the GGRM ( Ganv Ghor rakhonn Manch)and political parties like the BJP. The GGRM while flaying the promulgation of the ordinance, opined that it was yet another example of " absolute disregard" for processes of law and called it a double speak for the concern of the common person from Goa. While expressing its shock and outrage, the GGRM has demanded an immediate revocation of the ordinance amending the land acquisition act .

The GBA termed the governments move to save illegal structures of a city hotel as a "mockery of the law" and pointed out to the promulgation of the ordinance on the eve of the announcement of Lok sabha elections, suggesting that it had been done with the obvious motive of defeating the model code of conduct. Ms Reboni Saha of the GBA said that "the ramifications of such an amendment with retrospective effect is too shocking and flies in the face of justice".

The BJP in Goa, however chose to exploit the issue in the forthcoming elections and is using the opportunity to accuse the government of Mr Digambar Kamat as being one for the " khaas aadmi" rather than the "aam aadmi" . Strongly criticising the promulgation of  the ordinance the BJP called the government as a 5-star government and accused it of going to any extent to provide relief to the rich and the influential while turning a blind eye to the poor and marginalised in the state of Goa.

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin