LDF panchayat issued licence to P V Anvar's children's park without proper application: High Court

  • Court asks Koodaranji panchayat to explain before Feb 15 if it can issue licence without proper application form
  • Panchayat issued licence for 54 days to Anvar's park without permission to operate swimming pool and power rides
  • Petitioner Rajan said park's entry fees were Rs 400 for adults and Rs 250 for children implying the high fees could not be just for using see-saws, slides, and swings
PV Anwar.
PV Anvar. File Photo: Manorama

Kozhikode: The CPM-controlled Koodaranji grama panchayat in Kozhikode summarily issued a licence to influential LDF MLA P V Anvar's children's park without even a proper application, according to an interim order of the Kerala High Court.

Neither Anvar's application nor the panchayat's licence has clarity on the activity undertaken at the park, said Justice Viju Abraham in the interim order issued on Thursday (February 8). But the panchayat's express licence issued to the park has a validity of only 54 days, that is, it will expire on March 31, 2024.

The High Court has now put the panchayat in a spot by asking it to explain whether the licence issued now was based on a proper application and whether it can give a green light even without an application in a proper form. The panchayat has to file the affidavit before February 15, when the case is posted for next hearing.

The court also directed Anvar and Pee Vee Aar Nature O Park to strictly comply with the panchayat's condition that the park should not use power rides and a swimming pool.

Rajan's counsels Peeyus A Kottam and Ragesh Chand R G told the court that Pee Vee Aar Nature O Park was taking Rs 400 as entry free for adults and Rs 250 for children. Rajan implied that the reasonably high entry fees could not be just for using see-saws, slides, and swings.

The judge asked Anvar and Pee Vee Aar to file affidavits explaining the nature of activities undertaken at the park on the strength of the licence issued now and their entry fees.

On February 2, the judge asked the panchayat to brief the court on February 8 whether Anvar and his company were running the children's park after obtaining the necessary licence.

On February 7, a day before the matter came up for consideration in the court, Koodaranji panchayat board issued the licence to Pee Vee Aar Nature O Park, albeit with a series of conditions; condition no. 21 was that it should not use the swimming pool and power rides for children on the premises.

The Rollercoaster ride of Anvar's park
Nilambur MLA P V Anvar and his wife Afsath Anwar's company PeeVeeAar Entertainments started the water-themed Nature O Park on a 10-acre plot at Kakkadampoyil, a hilltop village known among travellers as 'Mini Gavi' for its misty mountains, cool weather, waterfalls, and greenery. Kakkadampoyil, 2,200 ft above sea level is on the border of Malappuram and Kozhikode districts.

PV Anvar Park
MLA PV Anvar; the children's park in Kakkadampoyil at Kozhikode. Photo: Manorama

During the 2018 floods, the Kozhikode Collector invoked the powers of the District Disaster Management Authority and ordered the water-themed park to stop functioning on June 18, 2018.

On February 24, 2022, MLA Anvar wrote to the government to issue necessary orders to reopen Pee Vee Aar Nature O Park.

On June 30, 2022, the government set up a committee to recommend design work to reduce the risk at the park. But the committee told the government that "the construction at the site was executed without any degree of technical proficiency and the documents and drawings submitted were arbitrary and were missing many details actually executed at the site".

The committee said the design work and other remedial measures for reducing risk at the park were "entirely dependent on the strength and stability of existing construction, including retaining walls, water retaining structures, and modified soil profiles of the site".

However, the committee was unable to trace documents essential for carrying out a technical assessment of the park, and neither did Anvar produce the drawing used at the time of construction, it told the government.

On May 19, 2023, the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) authorised its member secretary Dr Sekhar L Kuriakose to conduct a non-destructive test (NDT) and chart out the structural interventions.

In his report submitted on June 12, 2023, Dr Kuriakose recommended that the park's area with the children's rides be permitted to function. "This is primarily a garden area with no activity structures other than rides for children and is on stable ground.

There is already a steel fence that delineates the park area and therefore the area can be easily made functional without having to disturb the rest of the area with water rides. There are no slope stability concerns in the park area," the KSDMA member-secretary said in his report.

He made two more recommendations: one, Pee Vee Aar Nature O Park shall appoint Matter Material Testing and Research Laboratory Pvt Ltd, Kozhikode, as the project management consultant (PMC) to conduct non-destructive tests and recommend remedial measures; and two, appoint a committee to supervise the PMC.

The government accepted Dr Kuriakose's recommendations in toto. On August 21, 2023, the Disaster Management Department issued a government order permitting the children's park area to function.

The department also appointed another committee headed by Dr. Kuriakose to supervise the private matter lab, as recommended by Dr Kuriakose.

On September 8, 2023, two weeks after the government order, the All Kerala River Protection Council's General Secretary T V Rajan approached the High Court seeking cancellation of the order. He objected to the government roping in a "small-scale" private matter lab when it has a "very good mechanism" such as the College of Engineering in Thiruvananthapuram, Government Engineering College in Thrissur, and the National Institute of Technology-Calicut to conduct the non-destructive test. "But during the hearing, we moved an RTI query with the Koodaranji panchayat to know if the park had a licence to function. The panchayat replied it did not issue a licence and instead recommended a few corrections in the park," Rajan told Onmanorama. "We brought this to the notice of the high court," he said.

Licence without NOC
On September 12, 2023, a month after the Government Order allowing Anvar to run the 'children's park' in the water-themed park, the MLA applied for a licence with Koodaranji panchayat, controlled by the CPM.

Kerala High Court
Kerala High Court. Photo: Manorama

Anvar's counsel told the court that the panchayat neither replied nor rejected the applications within the statutory period of one month as contemplated under Section 236 (3) of the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act. According to the law, the licence is deemed to be issued after one month of inaction.

Justice Viju Abraham, in his interim order on February 8, noted that the licence issued by the panchayat on February 7 was not on Anvar's application submitted on September 12, 2023, which was in the prescribed form. "The present licence has been issued on an application dated December 4, 2023, which is not in the prescribed form," the court said.

The counsel for Anvar and the park told the court that the panchayat verbally intimated to them that "it is better to file a fresh application for a licence to run the children's park alone".

"If that be so," the court said, "normally a proper application in the prescribed form ought to have been submitted before the local authority for undertaking a different activity than that is requested in the earlier application."

Rajan told Onmanorama that Anvar submitted the government order and an application on a white paper without any documents. "He should have submitted NOCs (no-objection certificates) from various departments, including the Fire and Safety Department," he said.

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