Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Goa sarpanchas rapped by HC. Say sorry!

Four sarpanchas had to face the music from the high court of Bombay at Goa on Thursday 5th march 2009, when they were severely reprimanded for not demolishing structures violating CRZ rules and built after the cut-off date of February 19, 1991.

A division bench comprising of Justice P.B Majumdar and Justice U D Salvi instructed the sarpanchas of the four village panchayats of Khola, Agonda, Poinguinim and Loliem to produce the documentary evidence supporting the validity of such structures if existing before the cut-off date. The directions were issued after the respective panchayats claimed that the disputed structures seem to have been in existence before the cut off date of February 19 1991.

The directions of the court were given to Khola sarpanch Bhiva Velip, Agonda sarpanch Jovy Fernandes, Poingiuinim sarpanch Mrunali Pagi and Loliem sarpanch Vipai Lolienkar who were asked to explain the merits of regularizing the structures retrospectively without evidence.

On their part, the sarpanchas maintained in their afidavits that "social backwardness " of the local population was the reason behind the ignorance of completing legal formalities for constructing such houses by the locals.

The visibly angry bench subsequently asked each of the four sarpanchas their educational qualifications  which revealed that none of them had studied above the twelfth standard which prompted the bench to comment as to "how these  people who don't know anything about law, rule the people?"

The High court observed that the sarpanchas appeared to be fooling and cheating the court and the citizens and warned them of facing consequences thereof and sought to know form the Advocate general to point out the appropriate provisions of the law to check whether the sarpanchas can be found guilty of contempt of court.

Warning that the court would send the four sarpanchas to jail the bench cautioned them not to pass any orders with regard to the structures that are a subject matter of the petition, while also reminding them of being tried for cheating and forgery should they attempt to create any new documents.

Later, on Friday, the court however accepted the apology of the four sarpanchas attributing their attitude to illiteracy which failed to help them differentiate between judicial and government orders. The court also remarked that someone should assist these sarpanchas to understand that "everybody is equal before the law".

The sarpanchas informed the court that based on documentary evidence and in accordance to the law, they would act against illegal structures built after the cut-off date while also assuring the court of withdrawing their earlier decision to regularize these structures.

The panchayats have now been given a  fresh date of June 16 to file affidavits before the court after hearing cases relating to the validity of structures in the no development zone anew and as per the law.

Meanwhile at the same hearing, amicus curiae Norma Alvares told the court that the best solution to the problem of CRZ violation would be for the government to constitute a committee to verify constructions raised after the cut-off date which would lead to a uniform and expedient process in the matter. The suggestion was note by the bench  which asked the Advocate general Mr Subodh Kantak to get the governments stand on the matter at the next hearing

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