The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Kerala government for allegedly allowing illegal multi-storey buildings in coastal zones warning that it will fix the responsibility on those erring officials involved in such kind of constructions.
The top court slammed the state government for not complying with its orders to demolish four apartment complexes constructed at Kochi’s Maradu in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notifications.
The top court said it is shocking to know about illegal structures coming up in coastal zone areas and said the chief secretary should conduct a survey to gauge the extent of devastation caused to nature.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said it will pass a detailed order on Friday on the issue.
The top court linked the loss of lives in the floods in that state too to the situation, saying the natural calamity was due to the government failing to act against illegal structures.
“Have you any idea how many people have died due to floods and devastation caused to the environment. You are playing with nature. Thousands of people have died in devastations. How many houses have you built for victims? Yet illegal structures continue to come up in coastal areas,” the bench told the Chief Secretary of the state.
The bench said the conduct of the chief secretary is of defiance and now he stands in great difficulty.
“What is happening there we know. We will fix responsibility on those responsible. This is a colossal loss. It is a patent breach of law. It’s a high tide area and hundreds of illegal structures have come up in the coastal zone”, the bench said.
It said the chief secretary has not indicated in his affidavit as to how much time is needed to comply with the apex court order.
“We will pass a detailed order on Friday,” the bench said.
In an affidavit, the chief secretary of Kerala had assured the top court that its order would be complied with and the process for selecting a specialised agency for “controlled implosion” to demolish the buildings is underway.
Urging the apex court to exempt him from personal appearance before it on 23 September, Chief Secretary Tom Jose had said, “I tender my unqualified apology for any aspect on my conduct which this court construes not to be in accordance with its order.”
The top court had earlier asked the state government to file a compliance report before it by 20 September failing which the chief secretary will have to be present before it on 23 September.
In his affidavit, the Chief secretary said tenders have been floated for controlled implosion of the buildings and 15 specialised agencies had applied for the work as on 16 September.
The affidavit said that after receiving the 6 September order of the apex court, the secretary of Maradu Municipality was directed to take urgent action to “evacuate the inhabitants in the buildings mentioned in the order and rehabilitate them in coordination with the district collector, Ernakulam and invite short tender immediately to select a suitable agency for the safe and secure demolition of the buildings”.
Giving details of the number of flats and the demography of the area, the affidavit said, “There are 343 flats in the four multi-storeyed apartment buildings covering an area of 68,028.71 square meters. The municipality has an area of 12.35 square kilometres and is densely populated with a population of 3,619 square kilometres. Two national highways namely NH-47 and NH-47(A) pass-through this area”.
The top court had in July dismissed a plea filed by the realtors, seeking a review of its 8 May order.
On 8 May, the apex court had directed that these buildings be removed within a month as they were constructed in a notified CRZ, which was part of the tidally-influenced water body in Kerala.
The court had passed the order after taking note of a report of a three-member committee, which said when the buildings were built, the area was already notified as a CRZ and construction was prohibited.
Earlier, the court had rejected a plea filed by the residents of the area against the demolition order and taken a strong exception to an order passed by a vacation bench during the summer break of the apex court, which had stayed the demolition of these buildings for six weeks.
(With PTI inputs)