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Blow to state in port case

New Delhi, Jan. 9: The Supreme Court today rejected an appeal filed by Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) challenging a September 29, 2011, order directing that status quo be maintained on the territorial limits of the port.

The CPT’s revised limits of operations allegedly extend well into the territory of Odisha, affecting seven minor ports in the neighbouring state.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice D.K. Jain rejected the CPT’s plea on the ground that Orissa High Court had ruled against the Calcutta port.

The high court had quashed a central notification “unilaterally redrawing” the boundaries of the Calcutta port to the detriment of several minor ports in Odisha.

The CPT will now have to file an appeal against the high court judgment if it wishes to have the order set aside. This will set the stage for another round of litigations between the CPT on one hand and NGO Keonjhar Nava Nirman Parishad and the Subarnarekha Port Pvt Ltd on the other. The Subarnarekha Port Pvt Ltd and its associate companies claim that their rights as lessees were affected by the move.

The NGO had filed a PIL in the high court challenging the revised limit of the CPT.

The Subarnarekha Port Pvt Ltd had claimed that it had made “substantial investments” after a MoU with the Odisha government in 2008 and its rights were “prejudiced by the illegal and arbitrary action by the Centre and the CPT”.

The NGO claimed that an extension of the Calcutta port’s limits would not only jeopardize the development of the ports in Odisha but also limit maritime activities.

The ports that will be affected include Dhamara, Chudamani, Chandipur, Inchudi, Bichitrapur and Bahabalpur. The extension of Calcutta port’s limits will deprive lakhs of people of their livelihood, the NGO believes.

The central notification had extended the southwards port-area limit of the CPT as a result of which 200km south of Haldia into the Bay of Bengal had been included in the navigable limits of the Calcutta port.

As a result, the area of operation of several minor ports in north Odisha, including the area limits of Subarnarekha Port, was encroached upon. The entire territorial limits of Subarnarekha Port will fall under the jurisdiction and control of the Calcutta port.

The notification also “infringed upon the sovereignty” of Odisha over its coastal waters, sources said.