The Supreme Court on Friday directed that demolition of flats built on the coastal zone of Kochi’s Maradu be completed in 138 days, in accordance with the time schedule provided by the Kerala government.
The apex court also directed payment of ₹25 lakh as interim compensation by the state government to each flat owner within four weeks. The top court also ordered setting up of a one-member committee of retired high court judge to oversee demolition and assess total compensation.
“We are not sure how the compensation will be executed by the government. Giving ₹25 lakh as a relief is too menial for us as the flats costs at least ₹1 to ₹1.5 crore,” says Shibu George, a resident of Jain Constructions.
According to Cheshire Tarzan, RTI activist from Kochi, Eranakulam, said, “The builders are the real culprits in this issue. They are the ones who should take the whole responsibility. Similarly, ₹25 lakh is definitely not sufficient or cannot be considered as a compensation. In fact, criminal case should be taken against the builders, architects, muncipality secretary, panchayat president and everyone who is behind this huge issue. It is not just the residents who are bearing the brunt of it, but also the environment.”
A bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and S Ravindra Bhat directed freezing of assets of builders and promoters who were involved in the construction of illegal buildings in the coastal zone areas of Kochi. The bench further said the government may consider recovering the interim compensation amount from builders and promoters.
“We see some relief for flat owners. Today, Supreme Court identified flat owners’ rights and directed government to pay compensation to flat owners. It’s a good decision, but how to implement this decision, it’s not very clear,” said Shamsudeen Karunagapally, Chairman of Maradu Housing Protection Committee.
On September 6, the top court had ordered the demolition of apartment complexes in the Maradu neighbourhood for violation of Coastal Regulatory Zone rules. The top court had asked the state government to file a compliance report by September 20.
On Monday, on being told the state had not followed through on its orders, the Supreme Court slammed the state government.
“You are in patent breach of law. Your attitude is of defiance. Thousands died in devastation. How many houses have you built for victims? Yet illegal structures continue to come up in coastal areas,” a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra told Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose.
The court warned the Kerala government that it would not hesitate to prosecute the officers concerned for culpable homicide for loss of life.
“What is happening there we know. We will fix responsibility on those responsible. This is a colossal loss. It’s a high tide area and hundreds of illegal structures have come up in the coastal zone”, the bench said.
In its affidavit the state government pointed out difficulties in demolishing two of the four complexes, saying the flats covered an area of nearly 70,000 square meters that was densely populated and also had two national highways – NH-47 and NH-47(A) pass through it.
Supreme Court has also said that a committee of retired judges, technical experts and a civil engineers will further evaluate the compensation payable to the flat owners.