Bombay High Court issues notices to State, Union govt over Shivaji memorial

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday issued notices to the authorities over a petition challenging the construction of the proposed Shivaji  memorial statute off the Arabian Sea.

A division bench of Justices A S Oka and P N Deshmukh were hearing two petitions opposing the construction of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the Arabian sea.

The bench questioned the decision of Maharashtra government, the Union government, and the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority as to why they dispensed with the public hearings for Shivaji memorial that is expected to be constructed in the Arabian Sea, off Girgaum chowpatty. They further directed the authorities to file within a month, an affidavit clarifying whether due process was followed and a public hearing was held before granting environmental clearances to the project.

The senior counsel for the petitioners, Mihir Desai objected to the failure of the MoEF and government’s failure to take into account the public grievances. “The state government has notified exemption regarding public grievances and failed to hold a public hearing whereby all stakeholders could have shared their opinion.”

An Expert Advisory Committee was set up, which was expected to give recommendations to the government under MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forest). Advocate Saranga Ugalmugle pointed out to the court the state government and Centre approved of the construction of the memorial five days after the CRZ norms were amended by the MoEF in 2015. “The state government has displayed no application of mind to the germane issue,” she said.

The petitioners have contested the very notification of the amendment of CRZ norms by MoEF, which clandestinely dispensed with the clause of allowing of public hearings.

The Shivaji memorial falls under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and CRZ norms impose a blanket ban on development activities within 500 metres from the high tide line. The state government asked the Centre for approval, saying they will reduce the width to 200 metres.

The state government asked for CRZ recommendation and said public hearings should be dispensed with, and within five days after the amendment, the memorial got a CRZ clearance. The fisherfolk and few others have accused the state government of going ahead with this in a rushed manner to avoid legal wrangles.

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