The Bombay High Court asked the Centre and the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) to file their responses on the allegations that several clearances for the proposed Shivaji memorial off the Arabian Sea were given unlawfully.
A bench of Justices Shantanu Kemkar and Sarang Kotwal directed the authorities to address, in their respective affidavits, all the legal issues raised in a bunch of public interest litigations (PIL) filed in the court challenging the construction of the memorial.
The directions came after senior advocate Aspi Chinoy, representing some of the petitioners, informed the court that the MCZMA, the Centre and the state government had granted several approvals to the project in violation of the coastal zone norms.
Chinoy told the bench that the state and the MCZMA had granted approvals to the project without conducting a public hearing.
Citizens can raise objections and give suggestions on a public project of the aforementioned nature at a public hearing and it is mandatory as per environmental and coastal zone norms, Chinoy said.
As per the plea, the Maharashtra government issued a notification in February 2015 stating that there was no requirement for a public hearing for the Shivaji Memorial project.
“However, the MCZMA and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had already granted several necessary approvals for the project between November 2014 and January 2015 without the public hearing,” Chinoy said.
“This means that the authorities had been granting approvals in the anticipation that the norm on public hearings would be amended. This can’t be considered lawful,” he argued.
The court was also informed that earlier this year, another bench of the high court had directed both the Centre and the MCZMA to file their replies, but they had failed to do so in over six months now.
The bench, therefore, directed the two to file their replies within four weeks.
In a previous hearing, the state government had submitted that the public hearing had been dispensed with since the project was located away from human habitation and therefore did not involve any rehabilitation.
As part of the proposed Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial project, a statue of the warrior king will be constructed in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Mumbai. According to the state government, the statue will be the tallest in the world.
The Maharashtra government has pegged the overall project cost at Rs 3,600 crore.