National interest should prevail over commercial interests, the Bombay high court (HC) stated on Monday while dismissing a petition filed by TCI industries. The petition had sought approval for construction of a high-rise on erstwhile Mukesh Mills in Colaba, a plot adjacent to INS Shikra.
The court rejected the petition on grounds of security concerns. Citing the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the HC said that "there is nothing wrong if the departments are taking more stringent action."
In 2006, the Navy had objected to construction on the plot adjacent to INS Shikra as a high-rise would pose a threat to the security of the naval establishment. The corporation had then refused to pass the plan.
Appearing for the central government, additional solicitor general Darius Khambata and lawyer Rui Rodrigues had argued that terrorists could use the adjoining premises to attack the base or even spy on it when sensitive operations are on. The base is also used by VVIPs and heads of state, Khambata had told the court, adding that even US president Barack Obama had used the base for chopper service.
The court had earlier suggested that it would be in the interest of naval authorities to acquire the adjoining plots, including the ones encroached by slums, to secure its base around INS Shikra.
Following arguments by BMC lawyer Preeti Purandare, the court also held that no fault could be attributed to the corporation for seeking an NOC from the Navy under section 154 of the MRTP Act. A division bench of justice PB Majmudar and justice Mridula Bhatkar held that they cannot debate on the security concerns as it is for the defence to decide. "It is completely in the realm of the Navy," the judges said.
When TCI counsels Rohit Kapadia and Pravin Samdani contended that the Navy was not forthcoming regarding security concerns from adjoining slums, the court said that the government should not have allowed the slums to come up in the area. "The paramount interest is the security of the country," the court maintained.