Kapico Kerala Resorts Pvt.Ltd vs State Of Kerala on 10 January, 2020


Supreme Court of India

Kapico Kerala Resorts Pvt.Ltd vs State Of Kerala on 10 January, 2020

Author: V. Ramasubramanian

Bench: N.V. Ramana, V. Ramasubramanian

                                                                       REPORTABLE


                               IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                                 Civil Appeal Nos.184­186 of 2020
                (arising out of Special Leave Petition (C) Nos.34143­45 of 2013)



                      Kapico Kerala Resorts Pvt. Ltd.                   ...Appellant(s)
                                                Versus
                      State of Kerala & Ors.                            ...Respondent(s)


                                                 WITH
                                    Civil Appeal Nos.187 of 2020
                      (arising out of Special Leave Petition (C) No.21927 of 2014)




                                         JUDGMENT

V. Ramasubramanian, J.

1. Leave granted.

2. Challenging a common order passed by the Kerala High Court,

first in a batch of writ petitions and then in a batch of review

petitions, prohibiting them from carrying on the activity of

Signature Not Verified
development of a resort, in a backwater island namely
Digitally signed by
GEETA AHUJA
Date: 2020.01.10
16:15:38 IST

Nediyathuruthu island in Vembanad lake, Alappuzha District
Reason:

1
of the State of Kerala, on the basis of Kerala Coastal Zone

Management Plan (hereinafter ‘KCZMP’) and the Coastal

Regulation Zone Notifications, the project proponent has come

up with the above appeals.

3. The High Court was concerned, in the batch of cases, about

the development of resorts in two backwater islands, by name

Vettila Thuruthu and Nediyathuruthu, located in Vembanad

lake, Panavally Panchayat, in Alappuzha district of the State

of Kerala.

4. By a common order passed on 25.07.2013, the High Court

disposed of seven writ petitions, five of which related to

Nediyathuruthu island and the other two related to the Vettila

Thuruthu island. Out of the 5 writ petitions which related to

Nediyathuruthu island, 3 were by (i) a group of traditional

fishermen (ii) a public welfare Society and (iii) a trade union of

fishermen and workers, all opposing the construction of the

resort in the island. The other 2 writ petitions were by the

proponent of the project, by name Kapico Kerala Resorts

Private limited, referred to in the impugned judgment as ‘the

company’, seeking police protection for the completion of

construction and also challenging the inclusion of the island

in the Coastal Zone Management Plan prepared in pursuance

2
of the CRZ Notification of 1991. Similarly, out of the 2 writ

petitions which related to Vettila Thuruthu island, one was by

the Society opposing the development and the other was by

the proponent of the project, by name Vaamika Island (Green

Lagoon Resort), referred to as ‘the island owners’ in the

impugned judgment.

5. The effect of the order of the High Court dated 25.07.2013 was

(i) to reject the writ petitions filed by the project proponents in

respect of both the islands and (ii) to allow the writ petitions

filed either by the local fishermen or by the trade union or by

the Society, with the following directions:
i. That the action initiated by the authorities under the
Land Conservancy Act, against the project proponent
in respect of Nediyathuruthu island (which is the
appellant in these appeals and which is known as
‘Kapico’) for the removal of encroachments in
Nediyathuruthu island should be proceeded further in
accordance with law.

ii. That the Government of India/Authority should ensure
that the encroachments made in the Nediyathuruthu
island are removed within three months.

iii. That the project proponent in respect of
Nediyathuruthu island namely, Kapico and the project
proponent in respect of Vettila Thuruthu island

3
namely, Vaamika, shall not carry out any further
constructions.

iv. That the Government of India/Authority should take
action for the removal of unauthorised structures put
up by the island owners, namely Vaamika.

v. That the authorities should take action in regard to the
unnumbered buildings found in the Vettila Thuruthu
island.

6. As against the common order passed by the High court on

25.07.2013 in those 7 writ petitions (5 relating to

Nediyathuruthu and 2 relating to Vettila Thuruthu), two

appeals by special leave were first filed by Vaamika Island

(Green Lagoon Resort), in respect of the project in Vettila

Thuruthu island. These two special leave petitions in SLP (C)

No. 24390­24391/2013 first came up for hearing on

01.08.2013 and after hearing the petitioner, this court

reserved judgment. Thereafter, by a reasoned judgment

delivered on 08.08.2013, reported as Vaamika Island v.

Union of India1, this Court dismissed the special leave

petitions, thereby giving its imprimatur to the impugned

judgment of the High Court. Therefore, the dispute with

regard to the construction of the resort in Vettila Thuruthu

1 (2013) 8 SCC 760

4
attained finality and the project got buried deep under the sea

bed without any necessity for any further clearance from

anyone.

7. However, in so far as Nediyathuruthu island is concerned, the

appellant in these appeals filed, in the first instance, three

special leave petitions, SLP (C) Nos. 34143­34145 of 2013, on

07.08.2013 (after judgment was reserved in the special leave

petitions in relation to Vettila Thuruthu island). Apart from

filing three special leave petitions, the appellants herein also

moved the High Court of Kerala by way of 6 petitions of review

(5 by the company and 1 by its Director) in Review Petition

Nos. 776 to 780 and 843 of 2013. These petitions for review

were filed in October 2013. But by the time the petitions for

review came up for hearing, the common judgment of the High

Court had already been confirmed by this Court in Vaamika

Island (supra) on 08.08.2013. Therefore, applying the doctrine

of merger, the High Court dismissed the review petitions by its

order dated 10.12.2013. Challenging the dismissal of only one

of those 6 review petitions, namely RP No. 776 of 2013, (which

arose out of WP (C) No. 19564 of 2011) the appellants came

up in April 2014, with a separate special leave petition in SLP

5
(C) No. 21927 of 2014. The same got tagged along with the

first 3 special leave petitions arising out of the original order

dated 25.07.2013.

8. Thus we have on hand, four appeals, filed by the proponents

of the project for the construction of a resort in

Nediyathuruthu island. These appeals arise respectively out of

(i) the dismissal of a writ petition filed by the project

proponent challenging the inclusion of Nediyathuruthu island

within CRZ and seeking a declaration that the CRZ

Notification of 1991 is not applicable to the island, (ii) the

dismissal of the writ petition filed by the project proponent

seeking police protection for completing the construction of

the resort, (iii) the order passed in the writ petition filed by a

Society, directing the proceedings for the removal of

encroachments to be continued and (iv) the dismissal of a

petition for review of an order passed in a writ petition filed by

the local fishermen claiming rights over the stake nets in the

island, directing the demolition of the constructions put up by

the project proponent and also directing the proceedings for

removal of encroachments to be continued.

Pleadings in the Substantial Writ Petition

6

9. As stated earlier, the appellants herein were the petitioners in

2 writ petitions before the High court. But the writ petition in

which substantial reliefs were claimed by the appellants

before the High court, was the one in WP (C) No. 4808/2012.

Briefly stated, the claim of the appellants in WP (C) No. 4808

of 2012 was (i) that CRZ Notification of 1991 does not apply to

islands like Nediyathuruthu and that islands which dot the

backwaters of Kerala were brought within the purview of the

Regulations, for the first time only by the CRZ Notification of

2011; (ii) that since the appellants obtained NOC on

02.08.1996 and Building Permit on 10.10.2007 from the

Gram Panchayat, CRZ Notification of 2011 cannot be applied

to their case; (iii) that CRZ Notification of 1991 categorises

small islands under CRZ IV and there is no prohibition for

construction of buildings, as standards are yet to be evolved;

(iv) that the distance from HTL in respect of small islands is

required to be decided based on case to case study; (v) that

the land of the appellant falls under Category IV and hence, in

the absence of any special demarcation of small islands, none

of the restrictions can apply; (vi) that CZMP for Kerala under

the 1991 Notification was prepared in a haphazard and hasty

7
manner; (vii) that KCZMA was constituted by a notification

dated 26.11.1998, with a mandate to formulate area­specific

management plans, but no such plans were formulated; (viii)

that in the absence of any area­specific criteria for

determination of CRZ, the 1991 Notification is not applicable

to backwater islands; (ix) that Annexure I of 1991 Notification

classifies small islands as falling under Category IV, and CRZ

II and CRZ III relate only to areas distinct from islands; (x)

that since the average width of the backwater island where the

appellants had completed construction, is only 20­60 meters,

the extension of the restriction relating to Category III will be

violative of the right conferred under Article 300A; and (xi)

that even if the 1991 Notification applies to small islands,

Annexure I of the Notification specifically requires HTL to be

ascertained depending upon the size of the islands based

upon Integrated Management Study, but the same has not

been carried out.

10. It appears that in the earliest counter­affidavit filed on behalf

of the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority to the writ

petition (WP No. 19564 of 2011) filed by the local traditional

fishermen, they took a stand (i) that Vembanad lake falls

8
under CRZ IV; (ii) that Nediyathuruthu island falls under CRZ

III; (iii) that Nediyathuruthu island has CRZ landward of HTL

upto 100 meters; (iv) that the construction of a resort required

clearance under CRZ Notifications of 1991 and 2011; (v) that

Vembanad kayal (lake) is declared as critically vulnerable

coastal area, (vi) that though Panavally gram panchayat does

not have sea front, it has water bodies with tidal influence and

(vii) that the Panchayat was not competent to issue Building

Permit when CRZ Notification was applicable.

11. However, in the counter­affidavit filed in WP (C) No. 4808 of

2012, the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority took a

stand that the island falls under CRZ I. The distinction

between CRZ I and CRZ III under the 1991 Notification was (i)

that areas which are ecologically sensitive and important,

such as national parks/marine parks, sanctuaries, reserve

forests, wildlife habitats, mangroves, corals/coral reefs, areas

close to breeding and spawning grounds of fish and other

marine life, areas of outstanding natural

beauty/historically/heritage areas, areas rich in genetic

diversity, areas likely to be inundated due to rise in sea level

consequent upon global warming and such other areas as

9
may be declared by the Central Government or concerned

authorities and the areas between LTL and HTL fall under

CRZ I, while (ii) areas that are relatively undisturbed and

those which do not belong to either Category I or II, but which

include coastal zones in rural areas and also areas within

municipal limits or other legally designated urban areas which

are not substantially built up, fall under CRZ III.

12. In so far as the restrictions/regulation of activities in CRZ

I/CRZ III are concerned, the impact on the appellants was just

the same, in the light of the specific stand taken by the

Coastal Zone Management Authority. While no new

construction except those indicated in the Notification are

permitted in CRZ I, areas up to 200 meters from the HTL was

to be earmarked as ‘no development zone’ in CRZ III. Since the

counter­affidavit of the Coastal Zone Management Authority

proceeded specifically on the basis that Nediyathuruthu island

has CRZ landward of HTL upto 100 meters, the contradiction

in the stand taken by the Coastal Zone Management Authority

would not inure to the benefit of the appellant.

Findings of the High court on merits

10

13. In the common order covering both the islands, essence, the

High Court held (i) that both Nediyathuruthu and Vettila

Thuruthu islands are backwater islands of Kerala and hence,

covered by CRZ Notification of 1991; (ii) that though the

requirement for the conduct of a salinity test, for classifying

an area as CRZ, was introduced only in the year 2002 by way

of an amendment, the authority had asserted to have carried

out salinity test on the basis of 5 ppt (parts per thousand); (iii)

that the permit issued to the appellant made it mandatory for

them to be compliant with the CRZ Notification of 1991 and

hence, they cannot attack the CZMP on the ground that

salinity test was not done during the driest period as

prescribed in the 2002 amendment; (iv) that the words ‘small

islands’ included in CRZ IV in the Notification of 1991, are

intended to cover small marine islands in the vicinity of

Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep, but are not intended

to cover backwater islands which are influenced by the tidal

effect contemplated in the Notification; (v) that backwater

islands which have mangroves and areas close to breeding

and spawning of fish and other marine life will fall under CRZ

I; (vi) that CRZ Notification of 1991 clearly takes within its

11
sweep, the coastal stretches of the backwater islands, along

with the coastal stretches of the sea; (vii) that in view of the

development of environmental jurisprudence and the law

governing the field, the restriction and regulation of the right

to property through procedure established by law, cannot be

taken to be a negation of the right guaranteed under Article

300A; (viii) that the specific stand of the authority is that

Nediyathuruthu is a low lying area likely to be inundated due

to rise in sea level; (ix) that filtration ponds, by their very

nature, lie adjacent to backwaters and Nediyathuruthu is an

island with filtration ponds; (x) that having regard to the low

width, that is a little over 50 meters which cannot be

developed, the entire area has been marked as filtration pond;

(xi) that in a writ petition under Article 226, the High Court

cannot interfere with such a classification; (xii) that under the

1991 Notification, coastal stretches of seas, estuaries, creeks,

rivers and backwaters influenced by tidal action in the

landward side upto 500 meters will fall within coastal

regulation zone; (xiii) that the distance from the HTL was to

apply on both sides of the rivers, creeks, backwaters; (xiv) that

though the distance could be modified, on a case to case basis

12
for reasons to be recorded, the distance cannot be modified to

less than 100 meters or the width of the water body; (xv) that

by an amendment in 1994, the distance of 100 meters was

reduced to 50 meters, but this Court struck down the same;

(xvi) that therefore, the plan prepared by KCZMA in 1995 had

to be modified to be in tune with the judgment; (xvii) that even

according to the company, the width of the island, where the

construction exists, is between 20 to 60 meters; (xviii) that in

S. Jagannath v. UoI2, this Court held the filtration ponds to

be an ecologically polluting feature, but the same cannot go to

the rescue of the appellants, when the island is a backwater

island falling under CRZ I; (xix) that there was no requirement

for an island specific study, in view of the fact that the island

in question is not a marine island but only a backwater island

and (xx) that the failure to obtain a cadastral map cannot be

fatal.

14. For coming to the aforesaid conclusions, the High Court

solicited the assistance of one Dr. K. V. Thomas, a scientist

and who was the head of the Marine Sciences Division in the

Centre for Earth Science Studies, Akkulam,

Thiruvananthapuram. It appears from the impugned order
2 (1997) 2 SCC 87

13
that the High Court put to Dr. K.V. Thomas, specific questions

as to (i) whether HTL can be found only on the sea coast and

not in the other parts; (ii) the test carried out for fixing the

HTL; and (iii) how Nediyathuruthu was identified as

containing a filtration pond. It appears from the impugned

order that the learned counsel appearing for the appellants,

was also permitted to put questions to Dr. K. V. Thomas.

Thereafter, the appellants filed an affidavit of objections, to the

statements made by Dr. Thomas. This affidavit of objections

merely highlighted the discrepancies and errors in the

statement of Dr. Thomas. There was no objection to the very

procedure adopted by the High Court in soliciting the opinion

of Dr. Thomas. Nor was any objection made to his statements

as being biased.

Findings of the High Court on encroachments

15. Apart from soliciting an expert opinion on the technical

issues raised in the writ petitions, the High Court also got a

survey carried out by the Deputy Surveyor of Alappuzha in the

presence of the District Collector, so as to find out (i) the

extent of the property in the possession of the appellants and

14

(ii) the exact extent of the island. This was done by the High

Court in the light of a specific allegation made by the local

fishermen and the Society that the appellants were also guilty

of encroachments. Pursuant to the order passed by the High

Court to that effect on 22.11.2012, a survey and measurement

was done and a report submitted. As per the report, there was

an encroachment, which led to a notice being issued under

Section 11 of the Kerala Land Conservancy Act, 1957. After

the report was filed, the appellants filed an interlocutory

application in IA No. 16744 of 2012 seeking clarification. The

High Court then left it open to the appellants to impugn the

correctness of the report of the survey, before a competent

forum. In other words, without sealing the fate of the

appellants on the issue of encroachments, solely on the basis

of the report of the survey conducted under the supervision of

the court, the High Court gave a lease of life to the appellants

to agitate the same in a separate proceeding. Keeping these

findings of the High Court in mind, let us now see the grounds

of attack to the impugned order.

Rival Contentions

15

16. Assailing the impugned order of the High Court, it is

contended by Dr. A. M. Singhvi, learned Senior counsel (i) that

without conducting a salinity test under the CRZ Notification

of 1991 at any point of time, a finding was arrived at as though

the salinity of the land was 5 ppt and that therefore, the land

constituted backwaters directly influenced by the tidal effect of

the sea; (ii) that the finding about the existence of filtration

ponds on the appellant’s land, which is an inherent feature of

CRZ I, is flawed in as much as most of the maps depict the

area as having coconut plantations, which cannot co­exist

along with a filtration pond; (iii) that no State other than the

State of Kerala included filtration ponds as a feature of CRZ,

though a scientific Sub­Committee of the KCZMA itself found

no scientific basis for defining and characterising filtration

ponds; (iv) that there were fatal errors in the CZMP, which

were not rectified even after the Ministry of Environment and

Forests pointed out several discrepancies and even after a

Committee of Experts chaired by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan

found the plan to be replete with errors; (v) that the High Court

could not have proceeded on the ipse dixit of a so­called expert

by name Dr. K. V. Thomas who was called suo moto and whose

16
statements were taken on record as the gospel truth; (vi) that

the Guidelines of the MOEF requiring demarcation of HTL and

LTL after physical verification were not followed and micro­

level cadastral maps were not drawn by the State of Kerala;

(vii) that since the appellant’s land is a 5 hectare island falling

within the definition of ‘small islands’ in CRZ IV, an island

specific study was mandatory, before deciding the

classification, but the same was not done.; (viii) that the

categorisation of the island as critically vulnerable coastal area

(CVCA), is flawed, as no notification by MOEF as required by

CRZ 2011, was ever issued and the mandatory sequence for

identifying and notifying CVCA was not followed and (ix) that

as many as twelve permissions/ approvals obtained by the

appellant from various authorities and the completion of 75%

of the construction of the resort, were not given due weightage

by the High court.

17. Mr. Sanjay Parikh, learned senior counsel appearing for the

private parties and Mr. Pallav Shishodia, learned senior

counsel appearing for the State of Kerala and KCZMA raised a

preliminary objection to a detailed deliberation on the merits

of the case. This was on the ground that the common order

17
impugned in these appeals has already attained finality with

the dismissal of the special leave petitions through a reasoned

judgment of this Court in relation to Vettila Thuruthu island.

It is also contended by them that the appellants cannot now

blow hot and cold, after having agreed to take refuge under a

notification dated 14.03.2017 issued by the MOEF ( which is

in the nature of a scheme for regularization) and after having

moved an application under the said notification. They

contended that in any case, the order of the High Court was

justified on merits and that there is no reason for this Court

to take a different view from the one taken in Vaamika island

(supra).

18. However, Dr. A. M. Singhvi, learned senior Counsel for the

appellants, contended that the decision of this Court in

Vaamika Island was confined only to the facts relating to

Vettila Thuruthu island and that since Vettila Thuruthu

island and Nediyathuruthu island (to which the present

appeals relate) had different features, the correctness of the

order of the High Court in relation to Nediyathuruthu island

required to be gone into independently. The distinguishable

features, according to him are: (i) that Vettila Thuruthu was

18
obviously covered by CRZ 2011 Notification, as the Building

Permit for the appellant therein (Vaamika) was granted on

30.04.2012; (ii) that though the contentions relating to

salinity, filtration ponds, the opinion of Dr. K. V. Thomas, the

lack of cadastral maps and the identification of the area as

CVCA are dealt with in the judgment of this Court in Vaamika

Island, in passing, in two paragraphs, the substantive factual

issues are not covered; (iii) that the finding of existence of

mangroves in Vettila Thuruthu island and the absence of such

a finding in relation to Nediyathuruthu, is a significant

distinction; (iv) that the distance through backwaters from

Vettila Thuruthu to the appellants’ land is about 4.3

kilometers and Vettila Thuruthu island, as seen from Map

32A, is closer to the Arabian Sea than Nediyathuruthu; (v)

that the Building Permit issued to the appellant was on

10.10.2007, long before the issue of CRZ 2011; (vi) that the

draft KCZMP 2018 and relevant map of KCZMP 2009 make it

clear that Vettila Thuruthu is directly influenced by tidal

effects and has been shown as inter­tidal zone, which is

absent in Nediyathuruthu; and (vii) that the issue relating to

19
island specific studies/ small island was not dealt with in

Vaamika Island and it is a significant distinguishing feature.

Preliminary Issue ­ whether the judgment in Vaamika Island
is distinguishable

19. In the light of the rival contentions, it is necessary for us to

first deal with the preliminary issue, keeping in mind the fact

that the judgment in Vaamika island is not under review

before us. The correctness of the view expressed therein, has

not been doubted and a reference made to us. Therefore, it

cannot be our endeavor to undertake a research with

magnifying glasses to find out miniscule differences between

the 2 sets of cases. Our endeavour can only be to find out, if

the major issues raised in both cases were substantially the

same. If the answer is yes, the appeals are liable to be thrown

out. If no, the arguments on merits have to be considered

independent of the decision in Vaamika. Therefore, let us now

see what were the issues considered by the High court as

having arisen in these cases and how the High court answered

them.

The issues dealt with by the High court

20

20. The High Court, in the impugned judgment,

compartmentalised the issues arising for consideration into 2

parts, the first dealing with issues in common for Vettila

Thuruthu and Nediyathuruthu and the next dealing with

issues peculiar to each of them. The High Court took up for

consideration, from paragraph 31 onwards of its judgment,

common issues arising in respect of both the islands. After

dealing with and answering the common issues, from

paragraph 31 upto paragraph 85, the High Court

independently dealt with (i) the issue of encroachments

allegedly made by the appellant in paragraph 86 and (ii) the

issue relating to some specific reliefs sought by the local

fishermen and a trade union in two separate writ petitions

against the appellant in paragraphs 87 to 89. Thereafter, the

High Court dealt with other issues.

21. In brief, the common issues formulated by the High Court in

respect of both the islands are :

(a) Whether the islands in the backwaters of Kerala are
covered under the CRZ Notification of 1991 and whether
the failure to conduct salinity test as required by the
amendment made in 2002, vitiated the stand of the
KCZMA?

21

(b) Whether the islands would fall under CRZ IV and what are
its effect on the property rights and the doctrine of
legitimate expectation?

(c) Whether the identification of the island as a filtration pond,
on the basis of maps drawn to the scale of 1:12,500 using
satellite images without any field check, is correct?

(d) Whether filtration ponds are an anathema in the light of
the decision of this Court in S. Jagannath v. Union of
India
(supra)?

(e) Whether there is any reliable material to classify the areas
as filtration ponds?

(f) Whether there must be island specific study?

(g) Whether cadastral map is a must and its absence fatal?

The findings on all these issues went against the appellants as

well as the proponent of the project in Vettila Thuruthu

island. We have recorded the gist of those findings of the High

court, in paragraph­13 above.

22. As we have indicated elsewhere, the decision of this Court in

Vaamika Island is sought to be distinguished on the basis of

seven identifiable features, some of which, according to the

appellants, are covered in the decision in Vaamika Island, only

in passing reference. According to Dr. Singhvi, learned senior

counsel, the issues relating to salinity, filtration ponds, the

22
opinion of Dr. K. V. Thomas, the lack of cadastral maps and

the identification of the lake as CVCA, are all mentioned in

paragraphs 23 and 24 of the decision of this Court in

Vaamika Island, only in passing. It is his contention that

these two paragraphs of the decision of this Court in Vaamika

Island, seek to decide these issues summarily without any

reasoning and that therefore, this Court is entitled to decide

those issues independently in relation to Nediyathuruthu

island. Let us now see if this contention is valid.

23. As pointed out by this Court in Kunhayammed v. State of

Kerala3, there is a distinction between the dismissal of a

special leave petition by a non­speaking order where no

reasons are recorded and the dismissal of a special leave

petition by a speaking or reasoned order. In both cases, the

doctrine of merger would not apply. But in cases falling under

the latter category, the reasons stated by the Court would

attract the applicability of Article 141 of the Constitution, if a

point of law has been declared therein. If what is stated in the

order of the Supreme Court (before the grant of leave) happen

to be findings recorded by the Supreme Court, not amounting

to a declaration of law, the findings so recorded would bind
3 (2000) 6 SCC 359

23
only the parties thereto. Though the views expressed in

Kunhayammed were thought of to be in conflict with the views

expressed in certain other decisions [Abbai Maligai

Partnership Firm v. K. Santhakumaran4], and the issue was

referred to a larger bench for an authoritative pronouncement,

this Court has now clarified in Khoday Distilleries Ltd. v. Sri

Mahadeshwara Sahakara5, that Kunhayammed lays down the

correct law.

24. It is no doubt true that the decision in Vaamika Island was

rendered at the stage of special leave petitions. Obviously this

Court refused leave, but went on to affirm the findings of the

High Court, recording detailed reasons therefor. The opinion

expressed in paragraphs 27 and 28 of Vaamika Island, does

not give any room for escape even for the appellants before us.

Paragraphs 27 and 28 of the decision in Vaamika Island read

as follows:

“27. We are of the considered view that the above
direction was issued by the High Court taking into
consideration the larger public interest and to save
Vembanad Lake which is an ecologically sensitive area,
so proclaimed nationally and internationally.

Vembanad Lake is presently undergoing severe
environmental degradation due to increased human
intervention and, as already indicated, recognising the
4 (1998) 7 SCC 386
5 (2019) 4 SCC 376

24
socio­economic importance of this waterbody, it has
recently been scheduled under “vulnerable wetlands to
be protected” and declared as CVCA. We are of the
view that the directions given by the High Court are
perfectly in order in the abovementioned perspective.

28. Further, the directions given by the High Court in
directing demolition of illegal construction effected
during the currency of the 1991 and 2011 CRZ
Notifications are perfectly in tune with the decision of
this Court in Piedade Filomena Gonsalves v. State of
Goa
[(2004) 3 SCC 445] , wherein this Court has held
that such notifications have been issued in the interest
of protecting environment and ecology in the coastal
area and the construction raised in violation of such
regulations cannot be lightly condoned.”

25. The appellants cannot also escape the findings recorded by

this Court in other paragraphs, on the common issues. Even

according to the appellants, some of those common issues,

such as salinity, filtration ponds, cadastral maps, CVCA, etc.

are dealt with by this Court in paragraphs 23 and 24 of the

reported decision. The contention that these common issues

are dealt with in passing, in the judgment of this Court and

that therefore, they are entitled to be re­agitated, cannot be

accepted.

26. If detailed reasons given by the High Court or a subordinate

Court, find acceptance by this Court, in specific terms, the

question of scrutinising them for finding out whether they

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were in the passing or in detailed focus, does not arise. Such

an exercise would tantamount to reviewing the decision.

27. Each and every particular issue dealt with by the High Court

as common to both the islands, was considered by this Court

in Vaamika Island and a finding recorded. In particular –
i. Map Number 32A of CZMP as well as the techniques

employed to ascertain whether the constructions were made

in violation of CRZ 1991 as well as 2011, were found by this

Court in paragraph 25, not to be suffering from any

illegality.

ii. KCZMP was held by this Court in paragraph 23 of Vaamika

to have been prepared based on the guidelines of MOEF,

taking care of the maps prepared by the Survey of India

(Government of India) and cadastral maps prepared by the

Survey department of the Government of Kerala.
iii. It was also pointed out in paragraph 23 that the area

between LTL and HTL is also CRZ I and filtration ponds are

shallow water bodies and hence they fall under CRZ I as per

notification.

iv. In paragraph 24, this Court specifically concurred with the

view of the High Court that islands could be coastal

stretches of rivers or backwaters or backwater islands and

26
that they are clearly covered by CRZ I and not under CRZ III

or CRZ IV.

v. In paragraph 24 this Court also endorsed the view of the

High Court that even before the salinity test was

incorporated in the year 2002, reliance was placed on that

test, on the basis of 5 ppt which was made as per standard

measurements in parts per thousand.

28. The first distinction sought to be made by the appellants

between their case and the case relating to Vettila Thuruthu is

that the Building Permit issued to Vaamika was post 2011

Notification. But this distinction will not go to the rescue of

the appellants, in view of the fact that the categorisation

under CRZ I under the 1991 Notification was upheld by this

Court and this is why this Court found the constructions

made even in Vettila Thuruthu as violative of both the

notifications, namely 1991 and 2011 Notifications (paragraph

24 of Vaamika Island).

29. In any case, the appellants herein obtained the NOC on

02.08.1996 and the Building Permit on 10.10.2007. In

paragraph 26 of its decision in Vaamika Island, this Court

recorded the fact that the Director of Panchayats vide letters

dated 07.03.1995 and 17.07.1996 had directed all panchayats

27
to strictly follow the provisions of CRZ Notification and that it

was found to have been violated while granting permission.

This finding hits at the very root of the contention that the

appellants’ permit will not be affected, as it was pre­2011

Notification. In the teeth of the letters of the Director of

Panchayats dated 07.03.1995 and 17.07.1996, addressed to

all the panchayats, advising them to follow the provisions of

CRZ Notification, the NOC and Building Permit obtained,

respectively on 02.08.1996 and 10.10.2007, by the appellants

were clearly illegal.

30. Both Vettila Thuruthu and Nediyathuruthu islands are

admittedly backwater islands nestled in Vembanad lake. In

paragraph 27 of the judgment in Vaamika Island, this Court

has indicated that Vembanad lake is an ecologically sensitive

area and that considering the socio­economic importance of

this water body, it had been scheduled under “vulnerable

wetlands to be protected” and declared as CVCA. We do not

know how this finding can be held to be applicable only to

Vettlia Thuruthu island.

31. According to the appellants, CRZ 2011 prescribes a procedure

for identifying, planning and implementing CVCA. To begin

with, guidelines may have to be framed by MOEF in

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consultation with the stakeholders. According to the

appellants, the process of consultation with the local fishers

and other communities and the process of identification and

planning of CVCA, the process of preparation of Integrated

Management Plan etc. were not even undertaken and hence,

Vembanad lake though listed in paragraph 8(V)(4)(b) of CRZ

2011 Notification as CVCA, cannot be taken to be a notified

CVCA.

32. But the above contentions are already dealt with by the High

Court in paragraph 120­122 of its judgment. In paragraph

121 of its judgment, the High Court recorded a specific finding

that when the whole of Vembanad lake is included as a CVCA,

subject to a process, the Court has to take a view which

serves the object of the area being treated as ecologically

sensitive and hence a CVCA. It is with particular reference to

this finding that this Court held in paragraph 27 of Vaamika

Island that the whole of Vembanad lake is to be seen as

CVCA.

33. Once we find that the main issues arising in common for both

the islands and dealt with in common by the High Court, had

received a seal of approval from this Court by a reasoned

order, there is no scope for revisiting the same on the basis of

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certain minor ancillary issues not specifically dealt with, in

the judgment. Therefore, we hold that the distinctions sought

to be made out by the appellants are not substantial and

hence, we are not inclined to revisit the issues already

clinched by this Court.

Alternative Submissions

34. Dr. A. M. Singhvi, learned senior counsel for the appellants,

made two alternative submissions without prejudice. The first

is that by a notification dated 14.03.2017, a window of

opportunity akin to regularisation has been provided to those

who made developments without complying with statutory

requirements. According to him, the appellants availed this

opportunity and the Terms of Reference were granted on

05.04.2018. KCZMA also considered the application of the

Petitioner in its meeting held on 07.07.2018 and took a

decision to inform the MOEF of the complete details of the

case. Therefore, it was contended by the learned senior

counsel that the appellants should be allowed at least the

benefit of the said notification.

35. We have perused the Notification dated 14.03.2017. The

primary object of the said Notification appears to be to

30
address the issue as to how to deal with the projects and

activities carried out without obtaining prior environmental

clearance. The Notification seeks to declare the projects and

activities requiring prior environmental clearance under EIA

Notification, 2006, but carried out without obtaining such

clearance, as cases of violation of the EIA Notification, 2006

and it seeks to provide an opportunity to those violators to

avail the benefit of a one­time clearance. The Notification

dated 14.03.2017 does not deal with cases of violation of CRZ

Notifications. Therefore, we cannot say anything on the

application of the appellants under the said Notification. In

any case, the issue does not arise out of the lis before us.

36. The second alternative prayer made by the appellants without

prejudice, is on the basis of the CRZ Notification 2019 issued

on 18.01.2019. According to the learned senior counsel for the

appellants, the 2019 notification permits construction and

operation, so long as it is 20 meters from the HTL. According

to the appellants, even if all the constructions put up by them

are now demolished, the appellants will be entitled to build

once again, approximately 60 per cent of the area covered by

the existing superstructures.

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37. But the above argument does not carry any weight. Paragraph

10.2 of the CRZ 2019 Notification states that all inland islands

in the coastal backwaters and islands along the mainland

coast shall be covered by the Notification. It further states that

in view of the unique coastal systems of backwater islands

and islands along the mainland coast, along with space

limitations in such coastal stretches, CRZ of 20 meters from

the HTL on the landward side shall uniformly apply. However,

paragraph 10.2(ii) states that activities shall be regulated as

under: (a) existing dwelling units of local communities may be

repaired or reconstructed within 20 meters from the HTL of

these islands, but no new construction shall be permitted in

this zone; (b) foreshore facilities such as fishing jetty, fish

drying yards, net mending yard, fishing processing by

traditional methods, boat building yards, ice plant, boat

repairs and the like maybe taken up in CRZ limits subject to

environmental safeguards.

38. Therefore, it is not as though the reduction of the distance

parameter to 20 meters from the HTL is intended to confer a

benefit upon persons like the appellants. Moreover, even the

CRZ 2019 Notification places Vembanad lake in the category

32
of CVCA in paragraph 3.1 but with a different reach. There is

a world of difference between the 2011 and 2019 Notifications,

in so far as CVCAs are concerned. This can be summarized as

follows:

(i) In paragraph 8(V)(4) of the CRZ 2011 Notification, areas to

be declared as CVCAs were identified but paragraph 8(V)(4)(b)

mandated that those identified areas can be declared as

CVCAs through a process of consultation. Paragraph 8(V)(4)(c)

required guidelines to be developed and notified by MOEF in

consultation with the stakeholders, for identifying, planning,

notifying and implementing CVCAs. Integrated Management

Plans were also required to be prepared for CVCAs under

paragraph 8(V)(4)(d) of the 2011 Notification.

(ii) But under paragraph 3.0 of the CRZ 2019 Notification,

certain coastal areas are accorded special consideration for

the purpose of protecting the critical coastal environment and

the difficulties faced by local communities. Paragraph 3.1

identifies the critically vulnerable coastal areas. They include

the Vembanad lake. While the words contained in paragraph

8(V)(4)(b) of the 2011 Notification are: “…shall be declared

as CVCA through a process of consultation with the

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fisher and other communities inhabiting the area…”, the

words contained in paragraph 3.1 of the 2019 Notification are

“…shall be treated as CVCA and managed with the

involvement of coastal communities including fisher

folk”.

39. Therefore, for the appellants, the situation has gone from bad

to worse. Under the 2011 Notification the areas identified in

the Notification had to be declared as CVCAs only through a

process of consultation with local fisher, etc. Guidelines are to

be put in place for identifying, notifying and implementing

CVCA but 2019 Notification straightaway treats the named

areas as CVCAs and vests their management with the

Authority with the involvement of coastal communities.

Therefore, the alternatives claimed by the appellants also do

not appear to be viable for them.

40. Hence, in the light of our finding (i) that the substantial issues

that arose in common for both the islands have already been

answered in Vaamika Island (supra), and (ii) that the

distinguishing features sought to be projected, are not so

material as to take a different view than the one taken therein,

34
the appeals are liable to be dismissed. Accordingly, all the

appeals are dismissed. There shall be no order as to costs.

…..…………………………..J
(Rohinton Fali Nariman)

…..…………………………..J
(Aniruddha Bose)

.…..………………………….J
(V. Ramasubramanian)
New Delhi
January 10, 2020.

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