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Bombay HC orders NGO to pay cost of 1 lakh for filing ‘frivolous petition seeking to stall development in Navi Mumbai’

The NGO used Google images captured during monsoon to claim that the depressed land was a pond

The Mumbai High Court imposed a fine of rupees one lakh on an NGO on Monday for filling frivolous petition to stall development project in Navi Mumbai. The court noted that the PIL filed by Abhivyakti, the NGO, was motivated to somehow stall development work in Navi Mumbai.

Abhivyakti had filed a petition at the Bombay High Court last year claiming that water from Panvel creek flows into a depression on a 6-hectare land at Kharghar in Navi Mumbai, which forms a pond. They had requested it to be declared as a wetland and protect it. They had alleged debris were dumped into the area and 90% of the water body has been encroached upon.

Responding to the petition, City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) had denied that the water body was connected to Pavel creek, and said that no pond ever existed at that location. It informed that the land was jirayat, that means rainwater accumulates on that land only during monsoon, and it is cultivated during non-monsoon season. There is a slight depression on the land which collects rainwater during monsoon, CIDCO said.

After this response by CIDCO, Abhivyakti filed a rejoinder but didn’t contest the arguments of CIDCO. It instead changed its argument, saying that due to the importance of wetlands for the ecosystem, the area should be notified as wetland. The NGO said that wetlands should be identified and notified after satellite imaging.

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In view of this request, the Panvel SDO filed an affidavit saying that no wetland was mapped in that location as per satellite imaging. According to NWIA Atlas mapping carried out during the year 2005 using IRS-1C LISS-III satellite data of 23.5m resolution, no wetland was mapped in the area.

The NGO had contested this claim, saying that ISRO had mapped the area and identified it as wetland. But the Panvel administration produced a response received from ISRO which said that no Wetland was identified at the specified area in its satellite mapping.

Going by all the arguments, the court concluded that the initial claim of the petitioner that the wetland was created due to it being connected to Panvel creek was factually incorrect. After that, they had claimed that it was a pond created by rainwater, which was also proved false as water accumulated only during monsoon season. The court also noted that the land was private owned which was acquired by the government for development. The court also notes that no pond was detected in satellite mapping done by ISRO.

As a result, the court concluded that the petition was filed to stop development in Navi Mumbai. The court said that the petitioners had used Google images of the area obtained during monsoon to raise the boogie of environment being damaged.

The court dismissed the PIL saying it is frivolous, and imposed a fine of ₹1,00,000 on the NGO. The court asked the costs to paid to the High Court Legal Aid Fund within two weeks.

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