New Delhi [India]: The Supreme Court has directed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to hear afresh the Curlies restaurant owner’s plea against a 2016 order of the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) ordering the demolition of its structures.
Curlies was recently in news following the death of Haryana BJP leader and actor Sonali Phogat. She had allegedly visited the beach shack on Anjuna the night before her death. In September 2022, the NGT upheld a previous order passed by the GCZMA, which had directed that the restaurant be demolished for allegedly violating coastal zone regulations.
The top court said: “Hence, without adverting to the merits of the rival contentions, only on the procedural aspect, we deem it appropriate to set aside order dated 06.09.2022 passed by the NGT, Special Bench and restore appeal… to the file of the NGT to provide opportunity to both the parties and pass fresh orders in accordance with law.”
A bench of justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli said that interim relief granted by the top court will continue till NGT decides the matter.
“In the meanwhile, pending consideration of the appeal by the NGT, the benefit of the interim order dated 09.09.2022 granted by this Court on 16.09.2022 during the pendency of this appeal shall continue till the disposal of the appeal by the NGT, unless the NGT deems it necessary to make such an interim order/arrangement, if any. The NGT may take up the appeal and dispose of the same as expeditiously as possible and in accordance with law,” the order read.
Later, Curlies restaurant owner Linet Nunes moved the Supreme Court against the NGT order dated September 6, 2022, after the green tribunal refused to grant him relief on the aspects of violating Coastal Regulation Zone norms.
The Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority had submitted that the appellant Linet Nunes had not taken part in the second inspection conducted on July 15, 2016 by the expert Members.
“At this stage, we need not refer to that aspect of the matter to arrive at a conclusion as to whether one more inspection is required, to be done or not in the presence of the appellant (restaurant owner),” the top court said in its recently delivered ordered.
“Be that as it may, it has been brought to our notice that the order impugned was passed on 06.09.2022, on which day, the respondents herein, had not appeared in the proceedings before the NGT,” the top court record in its order as it observed that the GCZMA had filed an application before the NGT reflecting the reason to why they were unable to join the proceedings, and seeking for a fresh hearing of the matter.
“Though, it is pointed by the learned ASG that since the ultimate order passed by the NGT is in favour of the respondents and their absence, at this stage would not be material, the learned senior counsel for the appellant would point out that such absence of the respondents during the hearing has prejudiced the appellant herein, who was the appellant before the NGT since, the appellant was denied of an opportunity of putting forth its contentions in response to the contentions to be urged on behalf of the respondents so as to clarify the factual position so as to enable the NGT to take an informed decision. In that circumstance, we feel that the principles of natural justice would require that an appropriate opportunity be granted to both the parties and then, an appropriate decision be taken by the NGT,” the top court said.
Earlier, the top court, in an interim direction, had ordered the stay against the demolition till further orders.
The stay was granted with respect to the demolition of buildings in one survey number subject to the condition that the owner will not carry out any commercial activities in the structure premises.
GCZMA had submitted that the restaurant had never produced any substantive piece of evidence, documentary or otherwise, to establish her contention that the unauthorised structure standing on the Suit Property has been in existence since prior to 1991 and it had failed to discharge her onus of proving that the structure existed prior to 1991.