Thursday 20 September 2018

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Society | Environment

Assembly bars court review of fishing ban

 

In a desperate attempt to protect the mechanised fishing lobby, the Goa Assembly on late Friday evening passed an amendment bill, in a most unprecedented manner, barring the judiciary from reviewing the amended provisions of the act.

The bill is being passed hurriedly as the high court has already disagreed with the notification regarding the fishing ban period from 1 June to 24 July, which has been now inserted in the act by the Assembly.

Acting on the report of an experts panel of the National Institute of Oceanography appointed by the high court itself, the division bench passed an interim order on Thursday, extending the period up to 15 August, while fixing the next hearing on 16 August.

As the court order came as a big blow to the trawler lobby in the coastal state, all the 40 legislators also connived with them in getting the act amended in one sitting, by suspending all the rules of the House. The private member's bill was moved by opposition Congress MLA Churchill Alemao, a trawler owner himself.

The real surprise was however not legalising the reduced period of fishing ban but barring the court from having jurisdiction over this provision, "notwithstanding anything contained in any law… and (also) notwithstanding the proceedings in any court."

"No legislation can restrain powers of judicial review of the court by any law in this country", opines Adv Amrut Kasar, a constitutional expert and former MP. He also feels that the government cannot simply allow fishing from 25 July on the basis of the amendment when the court has banned it till 15 August.

The NIO scientists including Dr Z A Ansari, Dr X N Verlecar and R A Sreepada have however supported the contention of the petitioner Marcus Otilio Pinto de Santana that the fishing ban should be extended up to 31 August, which is a breeding and spawning period for the fish.

Even otherwise, the normal traditional practice in the coastal areas has been to pull up the fishing boats during monsoons, up to 'Narli Purnima', due to rough sea which also coincides with the breeding period for the fish. The practice was discontinued in early '90s, reducing the ban period, which had then resulted into fish famine in Goa.

Though the government had then issued a notification in February 1995 to strictly impose the ban till 31 August, the trawler lobby once again managed to get it reversed within five months, bringing down the period to 24 July – from 90 to 54 days.

The PIL was then filed recently when some legislators (Goa has four trawler owner MLAs including a minister) were trying to reduce it further by 10 more days, which could prove fatal in a long term for the whole fishing community in the state.

While regulating mechanised fishing in specific areas, the new legislation of the Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1980 now prohibits fishing beyond specified areas from 1 June to 24 July while also prohibiting catching of juveniles of fishes such as mackerels, sardines etc throughout the year.

Alemao opposes any further extension of the ban, arguing that solar variety of prawns and ribbon fish are available only in July. "But these elected representatives have no concern to preserve the fundamental aspects of nature", alleges Pinto de Santana, the petitioner, who is now also been proved right by scientists of the Goa-based NIO, the sole oceanography institute in the country.






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