The Division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice B V Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan expressed concerns about the Goa Bench at Bombay High Court setting aside the order passed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to demolish a residential house in the UNESCO heritage zone in Old Goa citing violation of natural justice principles.
The Supreme Court Bench expressed concerns about the High Court order setting aside the said matter prematurely instead of remitting it back to ASI for reconsideration.
The order, filed on a Special Leave Petition Writ Petition filed by Save Old Goa Action Committee states: "In the circumstances, prima facie, we find that the matter ought to have been relegated to the Additional Director General of Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi for reconsidering the matter, after giving reasonable opportunity to all sides of being heard and by following the principles of natural justice. Instead, the High Court has simply quashed notices and concluded the proceedings.”
Apart from the Save Old Goa Action Committee, thousands of people from all over Goa protested against the structure in various forms since they claimed it violated many rules.
It may be noted here that the director general of ASI had on August 16, 2022, ordered the removal of the house under Section 19(2) of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
Section 19 restricts enjoyment of property rights in protected areas and prohibits any person, including the owner or occupier of such protected area, from constructing any building within the protected areas or carrying out any mining, quarrying, excavation, blasting or any operation of like nature in such an area, or utilise such area or any part thereof in any other manner without the permission of the Central Government.
When the order of ASI was challenged in the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court, the latter quashed the former's order by stating: “Having said so, we clearly observe that the impugned order dated 16/08/2022 passed by the ASI is bad in law and requires to be quashed and set aside for not following principles of natural justice. Consequently, the petition must succeed.”
The Supreme Court order on September 5, 2023, states: “Having heard the learned counsel for the petitioner and on perusal of the impugned order, we find that the High Court has found that principles of natural justice had been violated. In the circumstances, prima facie, we find that the matter ought to have been relegated to the Additional Director General of ASI for reconsidering the matter, after giving reasonable opportunity to all sides being heard and by following the principles of natural justice. Instead, the High Court has simply quashed notice(s) and concluded the proceedings.”
Collin Gonsalves was the senior advocate for the petitioners.