PANAJI: The Bombay High Court at Goa has quashed a memorandum issued by the Administrator of Comunidades which had enabled the organisers of Rider Mania and Sunburn, who had used the property of the Anjuna Comunidade to host their events, to underpay for their use of their property.
Hearing a petition filed by Fenton de Souza and Trevor Mascarenhas two members of the Anjuna comunidade, the High Court ordered that the two organisers “pay to the Comunidade of Anjuna the balance amount of ₹12,67,120 and ₹36,95,736 within a period of eight weeks from today.”
Unless the sixth and seventh respondents pay this amount, their applications for allotment of Comunidade lands must not be considered by the Comunidades or the State government,” the High Court bench of Justices M S Sonak and Bharat Deshpande ruled.
Petitioners challenge State Government's action
The petitioners who are the Gauncars/ Zonnkars of the Comunidade of Anjuna, challenged the action of the State government via the administrator of comunidades in allowing the organisers of Rider Mania and Sunburn the temporary use of Comunidade property surveyed under no. 206/1 of Anjuna village, admeasuring 50,000 sq. m (for a period of nine days) and 142,856 sq m (for a period of thirty days) to hold music festivals on a commercial scale by paying an amount of ₹23,32,880 and ₹38,04.264, even though the general body of the Comunidade of Anjuna had resolved that such permission could be granted against payment of an amount of ₹16-lakh and ₹75-lakh respectively.
“The impugned communications or decisions of the Administrator and the State government, to the extent they reduce the charges payable, are quashed and set aside. As a consequence, the sixth and seventh respondents are directed to. If the amounts are not paid within this period, they shall carry an interest of eight percent,” the High Court ruled.
The general body of the Anjuna Comunidade had decided to grant the temporary use of their land for a period of nine days from 14 to 22 November, 2022, subject to the sixth respondent (organisers of Rider Mania) making a lump sum payment of Rs 16-lakh. Similarly, the Comunidade also resolved to grant the property a period of thirty days from 10 December to 10 January, 2022 subject to payment of a lump sum of ₹75-lakh.
However, when the resolutions were forwarded by the Comunidade to the Administrator of Comunidades in compliance with the guidelines, the Administrator of Comunidades returned the file to the Comunidade by observing that the amount resolved by the general body of the Comunidade to be charged from the sixth respondent was “not in accordance with the guidelines.”
“The provisions in Article 5 of the Code of Comunidades, which provide that the Comunidades shall be under the administrative tutelage of the State, cannot be interpreted to mean that the State government, in the exercise of its powers of tutelage or rather its responsibility of tutelage can force the Comunidade to give up its property even temporarily for fees which are almost 50% to 70% lesser than the fees resolved to be levied by the general body of the Comunidade. Such an interpretation would amount to doing violence to the statutory provisions imposing the responsibilities or duty of tutelage upon the State government when it comes to Comunidade and the properties of the Comunidades,” the High Court ruled.
“However, forcing the Comunidades to part with its properties even temporarily for charges much lesser than those determined by the general body of the Comunidade which is the owner of the property, would not amount to an act of tutelage or an act of protecting the Comunidade or the Comunidade properties. Such an act would also not amount to guiding the Comunidade but might perhaps sound in the arena of misguiding the Comunidade,” the High Court also said.
State can ask Comunidades to not go below minimum rate
“The State can, however, in the exercise of its duty or responsibility of tutelage, insist that the Comunidades do not go below the minimum rate of a base rate prescribed in the ready reckoners under the Stamp Act published from time to time. The State can, in a situation where that Comunidade or its general body or its managing committee is out to fritter away its property by basing its charges at rates even below those prescribed in the ready reckoner, decline approvals unless, of course, very strong or exceptional reasons exist and the general body of the Comunidade makes out a case for the same,” the High Court said citing the example of a fair or zatra held as a village tradition for centuries where no commercial element is involved or where the local school holds a function or a sporting event without any commercial element being involved.
“However, under these provisions of tutelage, the State government or the Administrator cannot force a Comunidade or its general body to reduce the charges or reduce the rate for which the Comunidade was prepared to allot its property even on a temporary basis. Such a force or insistence would then chase to be tutelage as understood in the Code,” the High Court also said.