The Supreme Court ordered the demolition of a restaurant constructed by the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) at Aluva Manalppuram within three months.
Allowing a petition filed by the Association for Environment Protection, the court observed that the DTPC and the Department of Tourism “conveniently avoided scrutiny of the project in the light of the parameters required to be kept in view for protection of environment of the area and the river.”
“The subterfuge employed by the District Promotion Council and the Department of Tourism has certainly resulted in violation of the fundamental right to life guaranteed to the people of the area under Article 21 of the Constitution,” said the order issued by the Bench consisting of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde.
The Aluva Municipality had reclaimed a part of Periyar River in 2005 and the DTPC decided to construct a restaurant there for the convenience of the public coming for Sivarathri festival. The State government sanctioned Rs. 55.72 lakh to build a restaurant and beautify the Manalppuram Park.
The association contended that the construction will adversely affect the flow of water as well as the river bed. The river provided water to people living on its banks. The construction, which was undertaken without conducting any environmental impact assessment and in violation of the provisions of Kerala Protection of River Banks and Regulation of Removal of Sand Act, 2001, will adversely affect Marthanda Varma Bridge, they contended.
It also argued that the construction was ultra vires the provisions of a government notification, which mandated assessment of environmental impact as a condition precedent for execution of any project costing more than Rs. 10 lakh. The petition of the Association was earlier dismissed the Division Bench of the High Court of Kerala.
The Supreme Court, in its judgment, said that the Division Bench of the High Court dismissed the writ petition by simply observing that only a restaurant is being constructed and not a hotel, as claimed by the Association. “The project, including construction of restaurant, is ex facie contrary to the mandate of a government order, which was issued by the State in discharge of its Constitutional obligation under Article 48-A,” the apex court order said.
“Unfortunately, the Division Bench casually dismissed the writ petition without examining the serious implications of the construction of a restaurant on the land reclaimed by Aluva Municipality from the river. If the project had been referred to the Environmental Planning and Co-ordination Committee for review and assessment of environmental implications then it would have certainly examined the issue relating to desirability and feasibility of constructing a restaurant, the possible impact of such construction on the river bed and the nearby bridge as also its impact on the people of the area,” the apex court order said.