HC refuses to grant leave for Chudamani port

Cuttack: The High Court on Monday turned down state government`s plea to lift a stay on going ahead with concessionaire agreement for the 10 MTPA Chudamani sea port in Bhadrak district and ordered that the matter shall be listed for final hearing after summer vacation.

The High Court last year had restrained the state government from signing any further MoUs with any developers or concessionaire for setting up any new major or minor ports in the state while adjudicating a PIL challenging the alleged arbitrary and discriminatory orders of the state government in setting up ports in private-public participation (PPP) mode.

The Odisha government in 2009 had inked an MoU with Aditya Birla Group to develop the sea port on Build Own Operate (BOO) at an investment of Rs 1,500 crore. The government had also signed agreements to develop two other minor ports at Subarnarekha mouth and Astaranga ports to handle cargo such as cement, aluminium, iron ore, thermal coal, limestone, gypsum, clinker and copper.

These MoUs were challenged in the High Court with environmentalist Biswajit Mohanty filing a PIL last year alleging that the state government had signed the MoUs in contravention of the binding directions laid down on it by the union government and in violation of relevant entries in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

After preliminary hearing of the PIL, the High Court in May last year had restrained the state government from going ahead with any further MoUs or concessionaire agreements for setting up any new ports without the leave of the Court.

Since the MoU for Chudamani port was signed much before the HC order of May 2011, the state government had approached the HC to grant leave for the concessionaire agreement of the port.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice V Gopala Gowda and Justice B N Mohaptra refused to grant leave to the state government on Chudamani port project and posted the matter for final hearing after summer vacation. .

It was argued that Odisha government had resorted to international bidding for Gopalpur port whereas for no legitimate reasons or cause, the allotment of Subarnarekha mouth port, Astaranga port and Chudamani port had been done through direct negotiations without inviting open bids.

The state government had also failed to explain as to on what guidelines the developers were allotted the ports.

The proposed Chudamani port has also entered into rough weathers as Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has raised objections to it saying the port falls inside its restricted area and would be a security threat.