The Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court has directed the Goa government to freeze its directive to offshore casino operators to move outside the city limits and drop anchor in a nearby bay.
The bench issued the directions Thursday after Hotel Leela Ventures Limited (HLVL), which operates Casino Rio, moved the court challenging a state cabinet decision taken Feb 26 to move the offshore casinos from Mandovi river to the Aguada bay some 3 km away.
In its petition, HLVL has maintained that the government’s decision was unconstitutional as the casino operator had obtained all required licences and permissions from the competent authority.
State advocate general Subodh Kantak said that the presence of casinos in the Mandovi river was proving to be an impediment to the smooth flow of ferry and barge traffic in the river and increased the risk of accidents.
The high court asked the Shipping Corporation of India to verify whether the casino operator had all its documentation in order.
The presence of six offshore casinos anchored and operational in the Mandovi river off Panaji has been the bone of contention between the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ruling Congress-led coalition government for several months now.
The BJP, which has alleged massive corruption in the issuing of licences and clearances to the casino operators, has been insisting that the casinos be moved out into the sea to avoid congestion in the Mandovi river.
The Goa State Pollution Control Board has also issued notices to the operators, who have been accused of discharging untreated sewage into the river.