The Legal Battle for Bangaram Resort, U.T. of Lakshadweep
15 Nov, 2012 Kochi
“It is causing avoidable hardships to the most marginalized Scheduled Tribe, as their properties have been taken over on lease for the tourism developments. The socio-political leaders should intervene in the matter, bring home the real background of the issue before the concerned to restore justice to the poor Scheduled Tribe people of the U.T. of Lakshadweep. Their time-old lease agreements should be updated, ensuring better return. Vigil should also be assured to avert cheating similar Scheduled Tribe, the land owners of Lakshadweep, by SPORTS“.
Lakshadweep is a cluster of islands situated at a distance ranging from two hundred to four hundred and forty Kms., from the main land. Most of the islands are not inhabited, and of a great attraction for tourists both domestic and international. Bangaram is one of the uninhabited islands in the Lakshadweep islands group. This beautiful Island lies at a distance of around 8 km from the north side of Agatti Island.
Its silvery sand beaches, luscious coconut groves, the blue lagoons, coral reefs and marine wealth make Bangaram more attractive. Recognizing vast tourism potential, the UT Administration took over the lands at Bangaram island in 1973. The land was taken on lease from the inhabitants by offering pay-backs apart from the lease amount. A resort was built up therein. The resort was opened by the ‘Hotel Corporation of India Ltd’ in 1974 for international tourism.
The tourists on those days were coming by the only ship M.V.Amindivi. During 1978-tourists came by chartered ship ‘M.S. Europa’. In the absence of a permanent transport set up, the flow of tourists were not encouraging. The Hotel Corporation of India wound up their business in 1982. The need for a good accommodation became inevitable. It was then, the ITDC, which developed more facilities in the Island.
Thereafter, the tourism promotion and developments in the islands including Bangaram resort, were handled by an organization called SPORTS (Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports), which was set up in 1982. Finally, SPORTS became the custodians of the leased-out lands. The land of the Bangaram belongs to the Scheduled Tribe people of the U.T. of Lakshadweep.
In 1988, an arrangement was made between the Casino Group of hotels, Cochin and the SPORTS through a lease deed dated 22nd October 1988 for operating the Bangaram Island Resort for a period of five years.
The revenue derived by M/s. Casino Hotels from the Bangaram Resort ran to crores. Only a fraction of the total income was reached to the land owners, who belongs to the most impoverished and marginalized Scheduled Tribe people of the India, the U.T. of Lakshadweep. Allegations were made by the Islanders who claimed that “by periodic inducements to the corrupt officials of SPORTS, M/s. Casino could go on extending the lease for nearly 22 years.
The lease period of M/s. Casino Hotels for Bangaram, with SPORTS was expired on 31st August 2010. Instead of giving vacant possession of the Bangaram Resort, M/s. Casino Hotels filed a Writ Petition in the High Court of Kerala challenging the notice of eviction and demanding extension of the lease period.
The issue became more complex with a bunch of petitions from the land owners of Bangaram island. The SPORTS has been collecting a huge amount from its lessee, but was giving only a marginal portion to its leaser – Said the land owners.
While hearing the W.A.1517/2010 dated 22nd October 2010, the two learned Judges of the Kerala High Court, who heard the Writ Petition found that the case of M/s. Casino Hotels is untenable.
“Learned counsel appearing for M/s. Casino projected the principle of promissory estoppel and principle of legitimate expectation for contending that M/s. Casino is entitled to an automatic renewal. The claim is based on the fact that in 1988, when global tenders were accepted they had mentioned therein that they would continue for a period of 25 years. Therefore, it is pointed out that they hoped that even though the initial lease was only for a period of five years, they will be able to continue atleast till 2013. They also say that they sought renewal on 25.2.2010 and since no reply was received till 7.8.2010, they expected that the lease would be renewed”. “There is no merit in the above contention at all. From the arrangement entered into between SPORTS and M/s. Casino, it is clear that it was only for a period of five years”. The Hon’ ble Court of Kerala observed.
What now remains to be considered is the grievance of the inhabitants of the Island. Though there was a challenge to Regulations 3 and 4 of 1964 Regulation, that has been given up and their claim remains confined to the demand that they be given adequate returns for the land that have been taken from them on lease.
The Hon’ble High Court of Kerala found that the Scheduled Tribe land owners of the Bangaram Island are now in a deplorable state of living and are denied of the Constitutional protection envisaged for their welfare. Constitution of India provides an elaborate framework for the amelioration of Scheduled Tribes and to curtail and prevent atrocities against them. Articles 15(4), 16(4A), 19(5), 46, 275, 243T, 244, 330, 335 and the 5th and 6th Schedules deal with the political, social and economic development of those people apart from the other Articles applicable to all. The Union Territory of Lakshshadweep is being administered by an Administrator appointed as per Article 239 of the Constitution of India. Articles 239 to 241 deal with the various aspects relating to the UT. Even though the Constitution provides adequate care for these unfortunate persons, it seems that the progress is very slow.
Accordingly, as per the order of the Kerala High Court in W.A.1517/2010 dated 22nd October 2010, M/s. Casino was to hand over vacant possession of Bangaram Resort at 4.00 pm on 30-10-2010. M/s. Casino went on appeal against this order to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in 4 Special Leave Petitions (SLP). The Hon’ble Supreme Court did not allow them to entertain any guests but also did not allow UTL Administration to dispossess them till the final orders of the Court. The Bangaram Resort now remains closed, and the matter is pending final decision before the Supreme Court.
“In the circumstances, the legal battle by M/s. Casino Hotels (The CGH Group) is against the well-settled legal principles of the country. “It is causing avoidable hardships to the most marginalized Scheduled Tribe, as their properties have been taken over on lease for the tourism developments. The socio-political leaders should intervene in the matter, bring home the real background of the issue before the concerned to restore justice to the poor Scheduled Tribe people of the U.T. of Lakshadweep. Their time-old lease agreements should be updated, ensuring better return. Vigil should also be assured to avert cheating similar Scheduled Tribe, the land owners of Lakshadweep, by SPORTS”.
How long will it take to get a decision on ‘Bangaram Resort’ case? http://lakshadweepforum.com/news/how-long-will-it-take-to-get-a-decision-on-bangaram-resort-case/
What’s the Economic Value of Lakshadweep’s Coral Reefs? http://lakshadweepforum.com/news/valuation-of-coral-reefs-lakshadweep-islands/
Reliable information that proves cheating!
The information about the cheating by SPORTS is startling. There have been consistent complaints about the corruption and incompetence of the SPORTS, the society functioning under the Lakshadweep Administrator for promoting Lakshadweep Tourism. But the ‘SPORTS’ purposefully ignore complaints and fail to answer any queries for redressal of grievances. Continue reading →