CRZ violation: 1,800 structures across Kerala face demolition

Power, water supply to Maradu flats to be cut off as demolition looms

Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi: The Kerala cabinet, which discussed Coastal Regulation Zone violations on Wednesday, noted that all illegal apartment complexes in the state should be demolished in the wake of recent Supreme Court order to demolish four illegal flats in Maradu in Kerala's Ernakulam district. "It is not possible to regularise illegal constructions as the Supreme Court verdict is binding on all structures," the cabinet noted.

According to preliminary estimates there are 1,800 illegal structures.

The cabinet also discussed Chief Secretary Tom Jose's action plan to demolish flats in Maradu. The meeting decided to sue the builders and ensure compensation for the flat owners. The chief secretary was also entrusted with studying the matter of other illegal constructions in the state and submit a detailed report.

It was also decided to institute a department-level investigation against those officials responsible for granting permission for construction.

At the meet Chief Secretary Tom Jose explained in detail about what had transpired at the Supreme Court as he appeared on behalf of the Kerala government on Monday.

The apex court had on Monday pulled up the state government for not complying with its May 8 order that sought for the demolition of the flats built in the violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. He pointed out that the government was left with few legal possibilities.

Onmanorama recently published the 65 CRZ violations listed by the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA).

Builders' bank accounts frozen

The police on Wednesday registered FIRs against three builders, who constructed apartments at Maradu in violation of CRZ rules, following complaints by flat owners that they had been cheated.

City police commissioner and Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhare said three builders have been charged under IPC Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) on the complaints of people living in the apartments.

He said around 60 bank accounts of the builders of H2O Holy Faith, Alpha Serene and Jain Coral Cove have been frozen as part of the investigation into the case.

No action has been initiated against another builder Golden Kayaloram as there was no complaint against them, the police said.

Steps have been initiated to make a complete list of all the constructions in Maradu municipality that were built by violating the CRZ norms. The list would include all illegal constructions since 1991.

Flat owners' demands

The affected flat owners have asked the government to hand over details of all the buildings in Kerala that were built by violating the CRZ norms. The Maradu Bhavana Samrakshana Samithi (House Protection Council) has demanded a white paper on this.

"As per the SC-appointed committee, all the constructions built within 200 metres of coastal panchayats from 1991 till February 25, 2019, are illegal. Even high-end hotels are part of this. The SC should be informed of all these. Information to the SC should also include details of those illegal constructions that were regularised as per the High Court order and against which appeals were not given in the Supreme Court," the council representatives said.

The flat owners also asked the Chief Secretary to inform the SC that the buildings should be pulled down as per the Demolition Act, passed by Parliament in 2016, and the guidelines put forth by the state Pollution Board based on it. And that this would take time.

"Evicting dwellers without following the legal steps is a violation of the law. This too has to be brought to the attention of the SC," flat owners said.

They also pointed fingers at the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) over the problem and sought to file case against all the wrongdoers.

"The KCZMA had backed all the buildings, constructed by violating the CRZ norms, in the state. We bought the flats after placing trust in the government-approved documents. The government should be ready to file cases against the builders who cheated us, and the KCZMA authorities who sided with them," the representatives of the flat owners said.

"If we stand to lose our households, we would also take legal action against the builders,” the council chairman Shamsudheen Karunagapally said.

Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court has rejected the pleas filed by the flat owners against the eviction notification.

The court chided the petitioners during the hearing. "Despite knowing that the constructions were illegal, attempts were made to regularise them. How can the petitioners take a stand against the SC order? Hasn't the top court said that you can seek compensation from the builders?" the High Court asked.

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