In a significant ruling the Odisha High Court on Friday quashed the notification issued by Union shipping ministry for altering the Kolkata port limits. The High Court also summarily quashed a similar notification of Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) which had taken steps to expand the port limits by 200 km south of Haldia dock.

A Division Bench of the HC comprising Chief Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice B. N. Mohapatra which had earlier ordered for a status quo on the expansion bid of KoPT after admitting a PIL filed by Keonjhar Navanirman Parishad, in its verdict observed that the notifications were issued in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

While the PIL had sought to quash the “impugned” notifications of the ministry and the KoPT, Odisha government had preferred to be an intervener in the case and had brought to the notice of the High Court that the proposed expansion of KoPT would overlap the port limits of seven major ports earlier notified by the State.

It may be mentioned here that the ministry had issued the notifications on October 22 last year for altering the Kolkata port limits and subsequently on November 10, 2010, the KoPT by the strength of the Centre's notification decided to expand its limit by more than 7,000 square kilometres of sea area bringing into its ambit the proposed minor ports of Odisha.

‘Conflict of interest'

Alleging that the proposed expansion of KoPT would incapacitate developmental plans of Odisha government in boosting its maritime activities, the PIL had sought the HC intervention saying the Centre had not consulted the Odisha government before issuing the notification.

The petitioner-advocate and senior Congress leader Narasimha Mishra had argued in the case saying that the Section 5 of Indian Ports Act of 1908 although allows the Centre to expand the port limits of major ports, the same section also mentions that the State governments are entitled to issue notifications for expansion of minor ports under their jurisdiction.

In this conflict of interest, the High Court has observed that the Centre should have consulted with the affected State government before issuing any notification; Mishra said adding that this decision of the High Court has brought a huge relief to the people of the State.