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Shipping ministry may challenge Orissa HC order on KoPT's limit extension - 2011-12-08

The shipping ministry is mulling to go to the Supreme Court to challenge the Orissa High Court's recent order quashing the ministry's notification extending the limit of Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT), according to informed sources. The ministry is believed to have already sought the views of the law ministry and others concerned in this regard. “The shipping ministry has no other option but to approach the apex court in view of the Orissa High Court order”, the sources observe. “Kolkata Port Trust will be a party to it”.

Last week, a two-member bench of Orissa High Court consisting of Chief Justice, Mr V Gopalagowda and Justice, Mr B N Mohapatra rejected the notification issued first by the shipping ministry and then KoPT terming it as illegal. Following a gazette notification by the shipping ministry, KoPT on November 10, 2010, issued a notification extending the limit of Kolkata Port. The High Court felt that the unilateral notification issued without consulting the Orissa Government would seal the fate of several upcoming ports proposed along the coast of Orissa by blocking their access.

The Orissa High Court order was issued in response to a PIL (public interest litigation) filed by Keonjhar Nava Nirman Parishad, an NGO, seeking the scrapping of the November 10 notification. Later, Dhamra Port Company, a 50:50 joint venture between Tata Steel and Larsen & Toubro, became party to the case and Subarbnarekha port authorities too filed a similar case in the High Court opposing KoPT's move.

Earlier, the Orissa Government had complained to the Centre that KoPT's move to extend the port limit to create transloading facility near the coastal waters of Orissa would affect the business of Dhamra port which signed an exclusive agreement with the Orissa Government prohibiting any new port facility within 25 km of Dhamra. The development of ports north of Dhamra too would be hampered by KoPT's move, it was emphasised.

A section in the shipping ministry was of the view that there was a need for a proper national policy on the utilisation of coastal waters in view of the rampant misuse of the coast. Different State governments, without caring to consult the union government, were merrily leasing out coastal waters to private firms on nomination basis. This must stop in overall national interest, it was felt.

Earlier, the KoPT authorities had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, demanding withdrawal of cases pending in the Orissa and Calcutta High Courts relating to extension of KoPT limits. The apex court, however, had rejected the petition. In response, the Orissa government had also filed a caveat in the Supreme Court, requesting the apex court not to decide anything on the issue without hearing Orissa's point of view.

When contacted, the Chairman of KoPT, Mr M L Meena, declined to comment.

Source: Hindu Business Line