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Maradu flats: Shocked to see spate of illegal structures in CRZ, says SC

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Illegal construction in coastal areas of Kerala is a "colossal loss" to the environment, the Supreme Court said Monday and expressed shock over a spate of unauthorised structures coming up at Kochi's Maradu.

Coming down heavily on the Kerala government for not complying with its orders to demolish four apartment complexes built in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), the top court asked the Chief Secretary to conduct a survey to gauge the extent of devastation caused to the nature.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Sharan and S Ravindra Bhatt said it will pass a detailed order on September 27 on the issue.

"Have you any idea how many people have died due to floods because of the 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 conduct of the Chief Secretary is of defiance, it said and warned him that he stands in great difficulty.

"What is happening there we know. We will fix responsibility on those responsible. This is a colossal loss to the coastal zone area. It's a high tide area and hundreds of illegal structures have come up in the coastal zone", the bench said.

The top court said the Chief Secretary has not specified in his affidavit as to how much time is needed to comply with the apex court orders to demolish four apartment complexes.

"Now, you are in great difficulty. We are telling you. You should conduct a survey to gauge the extent of devastation caused to nature. Do you know the extent of colossal loss caused to the nature. We are shocked to see this. No permissions were taken from the coastal zone authority. This could not happen," the bench said.

It said that Attorney General K K Venugopal in some other matter has told the bench, that in India there should be a law of tort.

"We agree with the Attorney General. If law of tort (law on civil wrong and liabilities thereof) had developed in this country, then accountability could have been fixed on the people responsible for destroying the environment," it said.

The top court said that there are around 350 families who will be affected by this demolition drive but who will save them.

"You don't understand what is happening in this area. Officers are responsible for this mess as they were not able to stop the illegal construction in this area," it said.

Senior advocate Harish Salve said he had asked the Chief Secretary to submit a detailed plan indicating the time needed to comply with the order.

"You (Salve) are a senior counsel and may not be knowing what is happening there. He (Chief Secretary) knows very well what is going on. They are only holding meetings and meetings," the top court said, adding that the court will pass pass a detailed order on Friday.

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 September 23, 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 September 20 failing which the Chief Secretary will have to be present before it on September 23.

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 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 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 May 8 order.

On May 8, 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.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, September 23 2019. 18:35 IST