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Justice Patel wins Goans' hearts in short but eventful stint that comes to an end

Story: The | Goan | 13th October 2017, 02:18 Hrs


PANAJI: In a brief but eventful stint, Judge of the Bombay High Court G S Patel has won the hearts of Goans with the eloquent judge delivering several significant judgements which left a mark not only for their clarity of thought and magniloquence of prose but also for the genuineness with which he has expressed his love for the land "where, perhaps more than anywhere else, sky, sea and earth meet."
Justice Patel took the place of Justice F M Reis to preside over the Division bench of the Bombay High Court at Goa along with Justice Nutan Sardesai. But it was the order issued in the wake of the grounding of the casino vessel M V Lucky Seven that made most stand up and take notice of Justice G S Patel.
On the grounding of MV Lucky 7
"For the past several weeks, the (Miramar) beach is marred by the sight of a large vessel that has run aground on it... How this came to pass is a story in itself. The ship was proposed as a floating or offshore casino. Today it is a wreck. There is a real and present danger now of damage to this beach, and others down the coast. The vessel is christened, somewhat incongruously or ironically, MV Lucky Seven. That is as untrue of the vessel as it is of the city and Miramar beach," Justice Patel said in an order where he made it clear in no uncertain terms that they would not offer any relief to Golden Globe Hotels "unless the vessel in question is completely removed from the Miramar Beach in Panaji and its environs."
"Casinos will come and go. They are replaceable. Our beaches are not. The most terrible judgment of all is the judgment of history, and history will judges us all not by the way we care for things we can replace, but how we protect the things we cannot. Therefore, our beaches and rivers first; casinos later," Patel said in his order.

The judgement in the NGT jurisdiction case
But what took the cake was Patel's description of Goa in the final paragraphs of his judgement on a bunch of petitions, including a suo motu writ petition filed against the Central government's decision to bring Goa under the ambit of the principal bench of the National Green Tribunal in New Delhi, which are worth reproducing in full.
"This is an extraordinary state, in more ways than one, a place where, perhaps more than anywhere else, sky, sea and earth meet. From horizon to horizon, it is a land of abundant richness. It is a land of confluences, where diverse strands meet and coexist; and, in a time of apparently incessant strife and discord, it is still a mostly liberal land. It is a kind and gentle land, of a kind and gentle people. And it is also a land that, given its small size and small population, has had a wholly disproportionate influence on our art, culture, language,
music, literature, architecture, history, design and more (even food, for many of what we consider our staples first came from here). Its greatest asset is one: its environment and its ecology - its rivers and riverbanks, its beaches, its lakes and clear streams, its dense forests, its low hills and fertile fields, its boulders and even trees shrouded with moss and vines and lichen in the rains, its ridiculously brilliant sunsets. One needs only to turn off an arterial road to either east or west to see all this first-hand, and all of it within but a few minutes.
If the NGT in Pune has so very many cases from Goa, it is not because - or not just because - the people of Goa are litigious; It is because they perceive that there is something of value here to protect... For this is something none can deny: this is a land truly worth fighting for," Patel noted.
This particular excerpt from the judgement has been shared virally on social networking sites and and received much praise with many recommending that it should even be taught in schools and framed and hung up in government offices.

Alemao smuggling case

Most prominently, Justice Patel's judgement on the challenge the Customs Collector's indictment of the Alemaoes in the Customs penalty case is sure to be cited several times over.

"The factual background to these appeals is startling, and reads like a script for a high-octane action movie: a daredevil customs officer, allegations of gold smuggling, dinghies arriving on a deserted south Goa beach and offloading cargo said to contain contraband gold, a group of men alleged to be smugglers, some with political connections, one a former Chief Minister of Goa, a high-speed car-and-motorcycle chase along narrow village roads in south Goa, a knife fight, accusations of murder, silent villagers and bystanders, and three separate but interlinked courtroom dramas that travelled twice to the Supreme Court. There is more than a touch of magic realism in all this, and the whole of it sometimes feels like a piece of fiction, a hybrid of Marquez, Ludlum and Grisham. It could only happen in Goa," Justice Patel noted in his order.
Finally, Justice Patel ruled against the Customs authorities on grounds of "the absence of an essential component for penalty adjudication proceedings - the contraband itself - is sought to be substituted by conjecture: ‘it must have existed'."

Reprimanding Kashinath Shetye
Justice Patel will also be remembered for his dressing down of activist Kashinath Shetye leading to the latter to loudly bawl in the courtroom.
"When confronted with a question of the inappropriateness of his petition, its tone and its language, he is by turns peevish and downright disrespectful. He tells us he will withdraw all of his several hundred petitions. If this is supposed to be some sort of threat, or meant to intimidate, it is an epic failure and if these are PILs, it says more about the bona fides of those PILs than he imagines," the division bench of Justices G S Patel and Nutan Sardesai observed.
"[Shetye] forgets that he is addressing an institution, not a mob, and a court at that. There is no place here for rabble rousing or park corner soap box grandstanding. This has become a fashion. If there is one thing a petition under Article 226 is not meant for it is to pillory tribunals and courts. Nor is it meant for publicity," Patel observed.

Praise for the High Court Bar Association
Finally, it was only fitting that the high tea to bid farewell to Justice Patel at the end of his stint here in Goa was a well attended and light hearted affairs.
As noted in the judgement in the petitions against the shifting of NGT cases to Delhi, Justice Patel had nothing but praise for the High Court Bar in Goa.
"If the imputation is that lawyers from Goa are unable to cope or properly attend to NGT matters in Pune, then that is simply untrue. Mario Bruto da Costa (who appeared on behalf of the Bar Association) represents a very fine Bar. It is quiet, discrete, good-natured, respectful without being subservient, and unfailingly courteous. Its civility should not be mistaken for weakness. Its quietness should not be misunderstood for inability or incapacity. The level of advocacy and drafting is of an extraordinarily high order, and we speak here not only of the many Senior Counsel at this Bar, renowned in their own right, but of the sterling junior Bar too. We have, too, another indication of the strength of this Bar and its calibre: Ms Alvares, redoubtable in her unswerving commitment to environmental protection over many decades, possibly to her own very great surprise today finds support even from those who have been her most implacable opponents in the past. That in itself tells us a very great deal about this Bar," Patel noted in his order.
This is sure to leave many lawyers very pleased.