The Confraria of a chapel in Dona Paula found itself in hot soup after the High Court of Bombay at Goa quashed development approvals granted by the Panaji Planning and Development Authority and the Corporation of the City of Panaji.
The Bench comprising Justices Sandeep K Shinde and R N Laddha, noted that the Confraria of the chapel failed to demonstrate or prima facie establish that it owned the property for which development approvals were granted.
The court also held that the Panaji PDA granted permissions in violation of its regulations and that it had overlooked a letter written by the owner of the land, Anita Souza, in 2003, where she alleged that an “attempt was made by the Confraria to usurp the property”.
In the 2003 letter, Anita had stated that she “suspected some foul play on the part of the Confraria in respect of the said properties and, as such, called upon the PDA not to issue development/redevelopment permissions and approvals”.
The property in question is listed under Chalta Nos 7, 15, 16, 17 and 18. In 1981, Anita sold the properties in Chalta Nos 15 and 17 to the Confraria. In 2006, she bequeathed the property to Bryan Joseph Da Silva, who is the petitioner in the case.
While collecting information under the Right to Information Act, the petitioner learned that in October 2019, the Confraria had applied for development in the disputed land by seeking amalgamation of the plots and repairs, additions to the existing structure.
The amalgamation was permitted in March 2020 and the construction was granted by the CCP. The chapel was constructed in the property by the petitioner’s late mother and grandmother, sometime in 1940. Although the chapel was being used exclusively by the Dias family, as time passed, neighbours were allowed to offer prayers and perform religious ceremonies.
In 1980, it was agreed that a committee/Confraria would be formed to look after the daily operations of the chapel, yet the land was neither sold nor put in possession of the Confraria.
The claim of the Confraria was based on a 1990 order of the enquiry officer of the survey department, an undated and unsigned statement of Anita whereby she purportedly gifted the land to the Confraria. However, both these were held to be illegal and the court, which put paid to the efforts of the Confraria to develop the land.