Bombay high court refuses to put a stay on construction of Shivaji Smarak

The state government had argued that no public hearing was needed because no human habitation is being affected by the Shivaji Smarak.

A division bench of the Bombay High court led by Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice Girish Kulkarni refused to grant a stay on the ongoing construction of the proposed mid-sea, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial. As per reports, the decision came after an NGO, Conservation Action Trust and some local fishermen, filed a plea, seeking to stay the construction.

The primary reasons cited to stall the construction, was first that a public hearing as mandated before giving a go-ahead for the construction was not conducted. The NGO claimed that the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF), in 2015, changed the coastal regulatory zone rules to allow construction of monuments and memorials in CRZ-IV areas.

Secondly, the fishermen claimed that due to the ongoing work and subsequent construction of the Shivaji Statute, fishing should not be stopped in designated zones.

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The State and Union Government opposed both these petitions arguing that all necessary permits were duly obtained from the concerned authorities.

Refusing to accept the contention, a division bench of chief justice Naresh Patil and justice Girish Kulkarni said under the CRZ rules and provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the Centre has the authority to grant exemption from public hearings and there was nothing wrong in incorporating the exemption clause in the 2015 notification.

“We may observe that the decision to have a project of this nature is a policy decision taken by the state. We are sure that the state government has given appropriate consideration on all the financial issues before taking a policy decision to undertake the project in question,” the court said in its order.

“From the government’s affidavit, it is clear that proper financial provision has been made and normal expenditure, which would be incurred by the state government on other necessary requirements, are not affected”, the order said.

“Also, the state government contemplates a scheme which would be worked out to recoup the cost of the project which may include fees which would be charged from the visitors,” the court said.

Maharashtra state government had argued that a public hearing was not required for the memorial as no human inhabitation was to be affected and no persons were needed to be rehabilitated and resettled. The court accepted the argument.

For the fishermen’s objection, the bench said “The Navy had in its report only expressed caution and it does not alter the Environment clearances granted for the project. We are thus, not impressed with the submissions as urged on behalf of the petitioner that there is some illegality and this can be a ground for a stay of the on-­going project.”

Maharashtra government along with Larsen and Toubro (L&T) Company, started the construction of the 212 meters high, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj memorial, to be built in a 15-acre area in the Arabian Sea on October 24.

As per the plan, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial will have a temple, a museum, a hospital, a replica of the entrance of the fort of Raigad, a theatre to hold shows depicting the life and times of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s rule. Famous sculptor Ram Sutar, the man who is also behind the making of the world’s tallest statue, the ‘Statue of Unityinaugurated by PM Modi recently, has also designed the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

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