Some developers and owners of property in Goa have been known to use either local political clout or Central ministerial influences to move their files and intimidate villagers of Goa; GoaChronicle.com throws light on one such case of Atex Overseas Limited (a company owned by Atul Gulati) owners of a property in the Village of Pale who claims to be close to Sheila Dixit, Chief Minister of Delhi who is accused of dirtying her fingers in the Commonwealth Games scandal…
The story is about the mundkarial house that existed in the property surveyed under No. 15/2 of Village Pale within the jurisdiction of the Village Panchayat of Velsao Pale Issorcim in Mormugao taluka. While the property belongs to the heirs of Marcelo Barretto, the mundkarial rights to the house vested in Pedro Sebastiao Goes. The house now apparently belongs to a person who has very close links with the powers that be in the national capital.
On 15th March 2007 the said Pedro Sebastiao Goes and his wife Maria Santana D’Costa e Goes executed an Irrevocable Power of Attorney in favour of one Vishal Singh, who then on 18th August 2007 made an application to the Velsao Pale Issorcim Panchayat to repair the mundkarial house.
The Panchayat vide its letter dated 31st August 2007 granted permission to repair the house with a condition that the construction should not exceed the existing plinth area which was recorded as 12.7 x 14 metres.
It is here that the first mistake was committed as the panchayat did not bother to check whether Pedro had purchased the mundkarial house and if not whether the landlord had given his permission for the repairs.
Armed with the license from the panchayat, the house was totally demolished and a new construction was undertaken. However as the new construction had exceeded the plinth area, the local pancha member complained and accordingly, the panchayat carried out a site inspection on 22nd October 2007 and observing violations, issued a show cause notice on 12th November 2007 pointing out that the conditions laid down in the license were violated.
As Pedro did not bother to reply to the show cause notice, another was issued on 4th December 2007 and the very next day stop work notice was also issued. However, Pedro ignored all these and continued with the construction.
His neighbor Pedro Sebastiao Sequeira whose chicken coop was demolished on grounds that it was violating the Coastal Regulation Zone, took up the matter and complained to various authorities about the construction which was not only in violation of the Panchayat license but also of CRZ.
The BDO acting on his complaint, asked the panchayat to carry out a site inspection and accordingly another site inspection was carried out on 12th December 2007 and the Associate Town Planner also asked the panchayat to look into the matter.
Meanwhile, the panchayat on 28th December 2007 revoked the permission for house repairs issued by it, following which on 4th January 2008 Pedro filed his reply to the show cause notices issued earlier by the panchayat. However, as his reply was found to be unsatisfactory, the panchayat issued another show cause notice dated 14th January 2008.
While replying to this show cause notice, Pedro revealed that he and his wife had sold the house in April 2007 but did not attach any Deed of Sale to prove his claim. Moreover, Pedro could not have sold his house as under the Mundkar Act, the mundkar only enjoys mundkarial rights which cannot be transferred and hence no sale can be made. Even if the mundkar has purchased his mundkarial house and property, it cannot be sold to a third party unless an offer is first made to the landlord.
As Pedro was continuing with the construction, his neighbor Pedro Sebastiao Sequeira on 8th January 2008 complained to the Deputy Collector bringing to his notice the CRZ violation. The Deputy Collector summoned both the complainant and Pedro against whom the complaint was lodged for an enquiry on 5th February 2008 while at the same time asking the Mamlatdar of Mormugao to inspect the site and prepare a report of the violations. But nothing materialized from this.
The panchayat at the same time decided to demolish the illegal structure and accordingly vide its letter dated 5th February 2008 asked the Block Development Officer to provide a demolition squad and also issued a demolition order dated 8th February 2008.
On receipt of the demolition order, Pedro filed an appeal before the Additional Director of Panchayats who granted him an interim stay, which stay was subsequently vacated after the panchayat filed its affidavit on 4th March 2008 and the Additional Director of Panchayats also directed Pedro to maintain status quo meaning to stop his construction till the matter was disposed off.
Meanwhile, Pedro Sebastiao Sequeira on 15th February 2008 lodged a complaint with the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) of the illegal construction within the no development zone and the GCZMA issued a show cause notice to the said Pedro which was dated 15th February 2008 and following a reply filed by the said Pedro, the Deputy Collector was asked to conduct an inquiry and submit a report and also to issue stop work order.
Since the Deputy Collector did not take any action and as Pedro was continuing with the construction, the panchayat issued notices to the Verna Police and also the Deputy Collector to initiate action against the violations.
The Deputy Collector in turn, asked the Mormugao Mamlatdar to inspect the site and submit a report and stop the work and further to complain to the Verna Police if the work was not stopped.
The Mamlatdar in his report dated 9th May 2008 noted that the construction was about 89 mts from the High Tide Line and hence a clear violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone and further pointed out that the construction was being carried out by M/s Atex Overseas Pvt. Ltd. a company belonging to one Atul Gulati.
Based on the Mamlatdar’s report, the Deputy Collector submitted his report on 9th June 2008 asking that action be taken against the violation as provided in the CRZ rules.
The Verna Police also filed a First Information Report against the said Pedro for disobeying the stop work order. Pedro in his defense claimed that the panchayat had not informed him to take permissions from the GCZMA.
Meanwhile, the appeal filed by Pedro before the Additional Director of Panchayats was dismissed as Pedro failed to appear before it and accordingly the panchayat revived the demolition order issued by it earlier.
However, at this stage, the Member Secretary of GCZMA on 29th January 2009 issued an order discharging the show cause notice issued by it earlier and permitted the said Pedro to repair and renovate his house even though the Mamlatdar and Deputy Collector’s report clearly indicated violation of the CRZ.
The Member Secretary reportedly had a change of heart because the said Pedro submitted an apology letter and repeated his defense that the Panchayat did not inform him that permission from the GCZMA was required.
As the GCZMA had given him permission, Pedro revived his appeal before the Additional Deputy Director of Panchayat that was dismissed and vide an order dated 16th June 2010, the Additional Deputy Director of Panchayats allowed the appeal and quashed the panchayat’s show cause notice and demolition order. Going further, the Additional Deputy Director of Panchayats directed the panchayat to revalidate the permission given earlier to repair the house.
The questions that come to mind is why did the Member Secretary of GCZMA have a change of heart to cancel the show cause notice issued by him earlier and give permission for a construction coming up within 89 mts of the High Tide Line? It would also be significant to note that other structures in the vicinity including Pedro Sebastiao Sequeira’s chicken coop were ordered to be demolished by the same Member Secretary because they were in violation of the CRZ. In the instant case, the Mamlatdar and Deputy Collector had clearly mentioned that the house was being constructed in violation of the CRZ and yet it was permitted. Why?
Why did the Deputy Collector not act immediately upon the notice served by the GCZMA in February 2008 to carry out the inspection?
And why did the Additional Deputy Director of Panchayats revive the appeal that he had earlier dismissed?
What is significant here is that it is the government officials who used every loophole available to thwart the Velsao Pale Issorcim Panchayat’s efforts to protect the law and remove an illegality even though the panchayat is an elected body. Why did the government servants not uphold the law and act accordingly?
The answers to these questions are quite simple, because though Pedro and his wife Maria Santana executed the Power of Attorney in favour of Vishal Singh, the said Vishal Singh is a front man for Atul Gulati, owner of M/s Atex Overseas Pvt. Ltd.
When GoaChronicle.com spoke to our sources close to the Delhi Chief Minister, we learnt that Atul Gulati’s claims to being the brother of Shiela Dixit are false. He is also not connected to her in any form of official designation such as private secretary or personal secretary. But what is being learnt from very close sources in the Delhi CMs circles of friends is that Atul Gulati and CM are close friends and do interact in money related matters. Some money matters of Delhi CM are looked after by Atul Gulati. On the Directorate of Settlement and Land Records the tenanted property now shows as being owned by Atex Overseas with no tenants. GoaChronicle.com questions how is this possible, when the Goan laws does not permit for tenant or a landlord to sell its tenanted land to another party.