New Delhi/Kochi: The Supreme Court has once again criticised the Kerala government for not demolishing the four illegal apartment complexes in Maradu municipality in Ernakulam district.
Hearing the matter on Monday, Justice Arun Mishra, who is heading the bench, orally rapped the Kerala government for its inaction. "We are really shocked. What action the government has taken against illegal constructions? If some disaster happens in the coastal zone, the families residing in the buildings will be the first ones to get affected. Your officers should be held responsible?" Justice Arun Mishra asked, reported Live Law.
The bench, then, asked Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose - who was present in the court - that how much time his government needed to demolish the structures. When the chief secretary sought three months, Arun Mishra replied in the negative.
In the order published in the evening, the court took a swipe at the affidavit filed by the chief secretary. The court said the contents of the affidavit are wholly unsatisfactory. "It is apparent that no concrete plan has been carved to undertake the demolition. The same reflects the intendment not to comply with the order passed by this Court in its true spirit," the order read.
Highlights of Monday's court order
• The contents of the affidavit (filed by Kerala Chief Secretary) are wholly unsatisfactory.
• The Kerala government has carved no concrete plan to demolish the flats.
• The Court ordered demolition of the apartments 'considering the importance of the coastal zones and considering the notifications issued from time to time to preserve such areas.
• Not permission has been obtained from the Coastal Zone Management Authority to build apartments at Maradu.
• Kerala witnessed huge devastation and colossal loss of human life and property in 2018 owing to such violation of law.
• The authorities, rather than preventing the violations, are trying to mobilize public opinion and time has come to hold them responsible for violation of the coastal zone regulations.
• Kerala should submit a concrete plan to prevent violations in future and take actions against existing violators.
• Kerala should find how many constructions have been constructed violating the Coastal Regulation Zone rules and inform the court about the proposed action against them
The bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice S Ravindra Bhatt will pass a detailed order on Friday. The court has allowed Kerala government time till Friday to file a demolition plan.
Highlights of the government affidavit
• The government will comply with the court order to demolish the flats.
• The government is in the process of selecting a specialised agency for "controlled implosion" of the buildings.
• There are 343 flats in the four multi-storeyed apartment buildings, covering an area of 68,028.71 square meter. The municipality has an area of 12.35 sq km and is densely populated with a population of 3,619 sq kms. Two national highways - NH-47 and NH-47(A) - pass through this area.
The Supreme Court had rapped the government on September 6 after it noted that Kerala state government had not complied with its previous demolition order, which was issued in May this year. The court then issued an ultimatum to the government that structures built in Maradu - which lies on the banks of Vembanadu Lake - violating Coastal Regulation Zone rules should be demolished latest by September 20. It also asked the chief secretary to file an affidavit.
The flats to be demolished are: The 16-storey Alpha Serene and twin towers of the 18-storey Holy Faith H2O stand tall on either side of the quite flowing Kundannoor River. Golden Kayaloram, the 16-storey structure in Kannadikkadavu, faces the Champakkara Canal. Jains Coral Cove in Kettezhuthin Kadavu, another 16-floor structure, lies close to the Nittoor Canal.
Residents' reactions: 'Court was misinformed'
Reacting to the court's observation that 'residents in four flats will be first ones to get affected if some disaster happens in the coastal belt,' residents in the demolition-threatened apartments said they are happy that Supreme Court is concerned about their lives. "But what about our livelihood? What would we do if we lose our property? Why is the court silent about our right to live?" asked Shamsudheen Karunagappally, a member of the Maradu Bhavana Samrakshana Samiti (committee to protect Maradu homes).
He said the court was misinformed about the facts. "The lake near the flats has never been in spate."
Beyoj Chennat, another resident, echoed him. "During the 2018 floods, we had given shelter to over 30 families from Thripunithura and Edappally," he said.
Other flat owners said they would react after getting the court order.
Residents of H2O Holy Faith, who had been in the forefront of the agitations against the court order, chose to stay away from media glare on Monday.
Meanwhile, Jain Construction, builder of the Maradu flats, said the rehabilitation plan will be decided soon after its Board meeting.
"We will have to wait for the final order. Then only we will be able to chart a course of action. Friday we will discuss the matter further," a company official told a TV channel.