[ecis2016.org] Following the demolition of the four apartment complexes that were built in violation of CRZ norms in Kochi’s Maradu area, the Supreme Court has directed the Kerala government to file its response on action taken against other buildings that violate CRZ norms
Taking a serious note of violations to the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, the Supreme Court (SC) has followed up with the Kerala state government yet again, to check whether its directions have been followed in ‘letter and spirit’. This was in continuance with the directives laid out after the May 8, 2019, demolition order of apartments in Kochi’s Maradu.
The apex court has sought a response to this effect from the chief secretary of Kerala in four weeks. The bench headed by justices RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and KM Joseph, took up the matter as a follow up of a contempt petition filed by two persons, who alleged non-compliance of the court’s order of September 23, 2019. Now, the SC has sought to understand the volume of violation of CRZ norms across Kerala. The chief secretary must now file the response within the next four weeks while the petitioner will need to file a rejoinder to it, two weeks after that. Note that the SC has granted permission to add chief secretary Bishwas Mehta as a party in the contempt of court plea, after former chief secretary Tom Jose retired from services.
Once the state government swings into action, many luxurious hotels and other buildings may find mention on the list of CRZ violators across Ernakulam, Kottayam and Kochi, analysts say.
It was early this year, on January 13, 2020 that the SC directed the Kerala government to remove the debris, including from backwaters, of four apartment complexes in Kochi’s Maradu area that were demolished on the apex court’s order, for being built in violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms.
“We will not dispose of this (petition) now. You will have to remove the debris. There are reports that some portion of debris has fallen in backwaters. You have to restore the area,” the bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah told the state’s counsel. The bench asked the state government to file a report before it, with regard to removal of debris of the demolished buildings and posted the matter for hearing on February 10, 2020.
One of the advocates representing some of the Maradu flat owners said there were some flat owners who had more than one flat in the demolished buildings but the one-member committee, which was set up pursuant to the order of the apex court to oversee demolition and assess total compensation payable to affected buyers, has said that compensation would be paid for one flat only. “You file a proper application about this,” the bench said. Regarding other issues, including the setting up of a court to deal with pleas filed by buyers, to initiate appropriate proceedings against the builder, the court asked them to file proper applications.
(With inputs from Sneha Sharon Mammen)
How were the Marudu flats demolished?
The Supreme Court-ordered demolition drive against four illegal waterfront apartment complexes in Kochi, was completed on January 12, 2020, with the high-rises being pulled down using controlled implosion method
January 13, 2020: In perhaps the first of its kind drive in the country against illegal residential high-rises, the four apartment complexes in Kochi’s Maradu housing nearly 350 flats that were built in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, were reduced to piles of rubble in seconds one after another, over January 11 and 12, 2020. Ernakulam district collector S Suhas and Kochi police commissioner Vijay Sakhare said the demolition drive was successful and everything went as planned. Explosives, weighing nearly 750 kgs, were used in a controlled manner to bring down the lakeside structures in Maradu, eight months after the apex court ordered their demolition for violation of CRZ norms.
On the eve of the demolitions, one of the owners had said: “It is injustice done by a state against its citizens. The government is responsible for this situation.” The drive was completed at around 2.30 pm on January 12, with the demolition of the 55-metre-high Golden Kayaloram building, the smallest among the four complexes. Earlier in the day, 55-metre-high Jain Coral Cove was brought down at around 11.03 am. On January 11, two complexes – H2O Holy Faith and the twin towers of Alfa Serene – abutting the backwaters were destroyed in a similar implosion method.
“It was a perfect implosion. Not a single debris has fallen in the lake,” Suhas said. “It was an absolute success. No damage has happened to the building adjacent to the demolished one and no harm to any human life or any animal life. No properties in the adjoining area were damaged,” Sakhare added.
Final inspection before demolition
Officials have carried out final inspections for the demolition of the four illegal apartment complexes in Maradu and assured residents in the neighbourhood that the implosion would be done safely
January 10, 2020: Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation officials, on January 9, 2020, carried out the final inspections to bring down four illegal apartment complexes, built in violation of CRZ norms, through controlled implosion and said they were confident it would be carried out safely. The buildings will be brought down on Saturday (January 11) and Sunday (January 12, 2020). Allaying their fears, engineers of Edifice Engineering and Vijay Steels said the blast would not have an impact outside, as the explosives had been filled in inter-connected holes drilled in the structures. The blast pillars have been covered with geo-textiles and other materials like wire mesh. Wind curtains have been set up in each blast floor, to prevent even small stones being flung outside in the impact, a South African expert associated with Edifice Engineering said. Officials of PESO and other members of the government-appointed technical committee visited residents in the neighbourhood and assured them that all steps had been taken, to avoid any damage to their homes. They said people living in the neighbourhood would be evacuated as a precautionary measure on the two days.
The 19-floor H2O Holy Faith apartment complex having 90 flats and the Alfa Serene complex with 73 flats in its 17 and 12-floor twin towers, will be demolished on January 11 between 11 AM and 11.05 AM. The 17-floor Jain Coral Cove apartment complex with 122 flats would be razed at 11 AM on January 12, while Golden Kayaloram with 40 flats and 17 floors would be demolished at 2 PM, authorities said. Meanwhile, nearly 57 flat owners in these buildings said they have not received compensation from the government so far, despite the Supreme Court suggesting providing Rs 25 lakhs as compensation to owners of all the buildings.
Resistance to Marudu flats demolition
Residents in the neighbourhood of the illegal apartment complexes at Maradu that have been ordered to be demolished, have begun an indefinite fast, protesting against the demolition of the buildings by controlled implosion
January 3, 2020: Residents in the neighbourhood of over 300 illegal waterfront apartment complexes at Maradu, ordered to be demolished by the Supreme Court, have begun an indefinite fast, seeking urgent government intervention to secure the safety of their houses. They fear that the demolition of the apartment complexes by controlled implosion, would extensively damage their houses. The residents, who began the fast on January 1, 2020, alleged that their houses were damaged even in the pre-demolition work carried out by agencies contracted with demolishing them.
The authorities have set January 11 and 12, 2020, as dates for demolition of over 300 flats. The intermediate walls of the buildings have been demolished through pre-demolition works and now the apartments are standing on bare structures. Around 850 kg of explosives are reportedly required for the demolition of the buildings, using controlled implosion.
SC dismisses flat owners’ plea
The SC has dismissed a plea by some flat owners in Kochi’s Maradu case, seeking initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against the concerned authorities, for allegedly misleading the court in the matter
December 3, 2019: The Supreme Court, on December 2, 2019, dismissed a plea by some owners of flats in Maradu, in Kochi, seeking direction to the Attorney General to grant permission to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against the concerned authorities, for allegedly misleading the court in the matter. The fresh plea, filed by some flat owners, came up for hearing before a bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna. “Several times we have decided this. You are making a mockery of it,” the bench told the counsel appearing for the petitioners. When the lawyer said he would withdraw the plea, the bench said: “Dismissed. No withdrawal.”
The plea sought direction to the Attorney General, the top law officer of the country, to grant permission for initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against authorities, including members of a court-appointed committee which was set up for proper ascertainment of facts pertaining to construction of flats there, for allegedly misleading the court in the matter.
SC reviews pleas of flat owners
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear in open court, the review pleas of some Maradu flat owners in Kochi, seeking appropriate relief from the builders
November 22, 2019: A Supreme Court bench headed by justice Arun Mishra, on November 22, 2019, said it would hear the review petitions of some Maradu flat owners in an open court, on the point of appropriate relief from the builders. In compliance of the top court’s earlier order, the Kerala government said it has paid Rs 27.99 crores as interim compensation to the Maradu flat owners and it will be paying Rs 33.51 crores more to them, the state government’s counsel said.
The counsel submitted a status report and said the state had partially complied with the earlier apex court order of demolition of the Maradu flats. The court asked the state government to ensure full compliance of apex court’s earlier order, including the demolition of the Maradu flats.
Residents seek relief in Maradu CRZ violation case
The SC has received a new plea from the 40 families that reside in Golden Kayaloram Apartments, stating that they were never served any notice on behalf of the Kerala government over the CRZ violations November 4, 2019: The Supreme Court (SC) has received a new plea from the forty families that reside in Golden Kayaloram Apartments- one of the buildings that has been served the demolition notice in the Marudu Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) violation case. The residents have said that they were never served any notice on behalf of the Kerala government claiming so. On the contrary, they were aware that the construction had flouted some building byelaw rules but was within the permissible construction area. Hence, the residents have demanded that the demolition of Golden Kayaloram Apartments should be reconsidered. They have also asked for an open court hearing given that they never had such an opportunity in the past. “A direction to remove the constructions which were made investing large amounts of money and efforts and when there are 40 families living on the same, is against public interest and public policy, especially when the building is now within the permissible area. It is also a national waste especially because now the building can be constructed once again in the same place legally,” reads the plea.
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SC rejects CREDAI’s plea
October 25, 2019: The Supreme Court, on October 25, 2019, asked the Kerala government to give Rs 25 lakhs as interim compensation to the Maradu flat owners, after it was brought to its notice that some of the flat owners were given a lesser amount. A bench of justices Arun Mishra and S Ravindra Bhat asked the builders of the Maradu flats, to deposit Rs 20 crores within one month, with the court-appointed committee. It also rejected a prayer of builder association Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI) that the Maradu flats be not demolished and put to some other use. “We are not going back from our demolition orders. This matter can’t be agitated afresh. Our order is final,” the bench said while rejecting the plea of CREDAI.
Director of apartment complex surrenders
The director of Alfa Serene Ventures, one of the apartments built in violation of CRZ norms at Kerala’s Maradu, has surrendered before a court
October 24, 2019: The director of one of the four apartment complexes, built in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms in Maradu, in Kochi, has surrendered before a court in Muvattupuzha, on October 23, 2019, the police said. The Vigilance Court sent Paul Raj to judicial custody till November 5, 2019, they said. Raj, who is facing a Crime Branch probe in a cheating case filed by a flat owner, surrendered a day after the Ernakulam Principal Sessions Court dismissed his anticipatory bail plea. He is the director of Alfa Serene Ventures, the builders of the illegal apartment complex facing demolition following the Supreme Court order.
The Crime Branch has registered a case against Raj, under various sections of the IPC including Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property. Crime Branch sources said it would seek custody of Raj and an application in this regard, would be filed in the Muvattupuzha Vigilance Court, next week.
Arrests in Marudu case
Two panchayat officials, as well as a builder of the Holy Faith apartment complex, have been arrested for the alleged violations in the construction of four apartment complexes in CRZ areas, in Maradu
October 16, 2019: Three people, including a builder of the Holy Faith apartment complex at Maradu, which was ordered to be demolished by the Supreme Court for violating Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, were arrested on October 15, 2019. This is the first arrest in the case. Two former Maradu panchayat officials were also arrested, in connection with the alleged irregularities in the construction of the four Maradu apartment complexes.
The crime branch, which is probing case, took into custody three people – Sanny Francis, managing director of Holy Faith Builders and Developers Ltd; Mohammed Ashraf, former Maradu panchayat secretary and P Joseph, junior superintendent and later recorded their arrest after questioning. The arrests were made, on the basis of strong evidence against them, a senior police official said. Cases have been registered against them under the Prevention of Corruption Act, conspiracy and cheating. “More arrests will take place in the coming days. Investigation is going on,” Additional DGP Tomin J Thachankary said.
SC refuses to entertain plea of flat owners
In a big blow to the owners of flats in Kochi’s Maradu, the SC has refused to entertain the plea of flat owners seeking a stay on the demolition of apartment complexes, which the SC has directed be demolished since they were built in violation of CRZ norms
October 3, 2019: The Supreme Court has refused to entertain a plea of flat owners seeking a stay on its order on the demolition of four apartment complexes, in Kochi’s Maradu, which were built in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone norms. A bench of justices Arun Mishra and S Ravindra Bhat dismissed the plea of flat owners, who have also challenged the legality of a panel which had recommended the demolition.
The apex court had directed the demolition of the flats within 138 days, a timeline given by the Kerala government, and had asked the state to pay Rs 25 lakhs interim compensation to each flat owner. within four weeks. It had said the government may consider recovering the interim compensation amount, which will be paid to flat owners, from the builders and the promoters.
Eviction process of apartment complexes
The Kerala government has started the process of evicting the residents of four illegal apartment complexes in Kochi’s Maradu, which have been ordered to be demolished by the SC, for violating CRZ norms
September 30, 2019: A Supreme Court bench of justices Arun Mishra and S Ravindra Bhat, on September 30, 2019, refused to entertain a plea of flat owners, seeking a stay on its order on demolition of the four illegal apartment complexes, in Maradu, in Kerala. The Kerala government, on September 29, 2019, began the process for evicting residents of four illegal apartment complexes. The evacuation process will be completed before October 3, 2019, said Fort Kochi sub-collector Snehil Kumar Singh, who has been given the additional charge as secretary of the Maradu municipality, where the 343 waterfront flats, built in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, are located.
He said the officials visiting the apartment complexes, will find out the requirements of the residents. We are not trying to evacuate them forcefully, he added. A section of the residents went on a ‘hunger strike’ in front of one of the apartment complexes, raising demands including provision of more time to vacate and that the government bear the rent for the alternative accommodation.
SC directs demolition to be completed in 138 days
The Supreme Court has directed that the demolition of flats built at Maradu, in Kerala, in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone rules, be completed in 138 days
September 27, 2019: The Supreme Court, on September 27, 2019, directed that the 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 Rs 25 lakhs, 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 a retired high court judge, to oversee the demolition and assess total compensation. 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.
Power, water supply to apartments cut
The Kochi police has registered FIRs against three builders, who constructed apartments at Maradu, in Kerala, in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone rules, following complaints by flat owners that they were cheated by them
September 26, 2019: The Kochi police has frozen around 60 bank accounts of the three builders, who constructed apartment complexes in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules in Maradu. City police commissioner and inspector general of police Vijay Sakhare said the three builders have also 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, police said.
Meanwhile, power and water supply lines to the four apartment complexes, were disconnected, on September 25, 2019. Amid heavy police presence, the power supply was disconnected around 5 am, while the water supply was stopped a few hours later, said residents of the apartments, who protested, calling it a violation of human rights. “Officials are taking steps to throw us out on the streets. We are not the culprits. We will not leave our homes. We will stay here,” a representative of the flat owners said. He said some flat owners were abroad and the struggle against the demolition move would be strengthened, once they returned.
SC comes down heavily on the number of illegal structures in CRZ area
Illegal construction in coastal areas of Kerala is a ‘colossal loss’ to the environment, the Supreme Court said, while expressing shock over the spate of unauthorised structures coming up at Kochi’s Maradu
September 24, 2019: 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 Supreme Court asked the chief secretary to conduct a survey to gauge the extent of devastation caused to the nature. The top court said, “It appears that the authorities, rather than preventing the violations, are trying to mobilise the public opinion and time has come to hold them responsible for their active connivance in such activities of degrading the environment and violation of the coastal zone regulations.”
The top court referred to the 2018 floods in the state and said, “Owing to such violations of law at various places, huge devastation has already been taken place in the state of Kerala in the year 2018, with colossal loss of human life and property, the entire country was moved by it. Yet, illegal structures continue to come up in coastal areas.” The conduct of the chief secretary is of defiance, it said and warned him that he stands in great difficulty. It said, “We have gone through the affidavit filed by the chief secretary. The contents of the affidavit are wholly unsatisfactory. It is apparent that no concrete plan has been carved to undertake the demolition.”
The top court said the chief secretary has not specified in his affidavit, as to how much time was needed to comply with the apex court orders, to demolish the four apartment complexes. The bench of justices Arun Mishra and S Ravindra Bhatt, said it will pass a detailed order on September 27, 2019, on the issue and sought a concrete plan from the Kerala government on the removal of illegal structures. It also asked the chief secretary to file a fresh affidavit.
Kerala assures SC of complying with demolition orders
The Kerala government has informed the SC that it has taken requisite steps to comply with the court’s direction, to demolish four apartment complexes constructed at Kochi’s Maradu, in violation of CRZ notifications
September 23, 2019: In an affidavit, the chief secretary of Kerala Tom Jose, on September 20, 2019, assured the Supreme Court that its order, directing the demolition of four apartment complexes constructed at Kochi’s Maradu in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, would be complied with and the process for selecting a specialised agency for ‘controlled implosion’ to demolish the buildings, was underway. A bench headed by justice Arun Mishra had, on September 6, 2019, pulled up the Kerala government for non-compliance of its order to demolish these buildings and said the state was known for ‘not following’ its directives. The top court had asked the state government to file a compliance report before it, by September 20, 2019, failing which the chief secretary would have to be present before it on September 23, 2019. In his affidavit, the chief secretary said that tenders had been floated for controlled implosion of the buildings and 15 specialised agencies had applied for the work, as on September 16, 2019. “The selection process is under progress”, he said adding, “The government has taken all steps to comply with the direction of this court. Therefore, I humbly request the court to exempt me from personal appearance.” Referring to the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994 and Kerala Panchayat Act, 1994, he said that Maradu was a panchayat and in 2010 it was upgraded as a municipality. “Under both the Acts, the power of giving permits to buildings and the demolition of buildings violating rules, rest with the concerned panchayat/municipality,” he said. He said that after receiving the September 6 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’. “The municipality was assured of all assistance from the government of Kerala to implement the orders of this court,” the affidavit said and added “It was underscored that non-compliance of the Supreme Court order will be viewed very seriously and will invite disciplinary action.”
Consequences of demolition
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 sq metres. 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. As on today, there are space constraints for the proper disposal of the waste/debris; without proper study and planning, if the entire structure is demolished in one go, it would result in larger ecological disaster, seriously prejudicing the inhabitants and environment of even the nearby places. This is one of the first instances of demolition of buildings of this magnitude and nature.”
The chief secretary said that it is also a fact that the concerned department ‘lacks experience and expertise in handling this situation in a very short time’. He said that he, along with the district collector, had, on September 9, 2019, visited the site to prepare for the demolition and inform the apartment owners and residents that the need to comply with the apex court order. He said that the secretary of the municipality had affixed notices on the building complexes, to inform the builders and the residents to evacuate within five days.
Violation of CRZ rules
The top court had, in July 2019, dismissed a plea filed by the realtors, seeking a review of its May 8, 2109 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.
When did demolition in Marudu for CRZ violation take place?
Kochi’s four illegal apartment complexes, built in violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, were demolished on January 11-12, 2020, using controlled implosion method.
Which were the buildings involved in Marudu CRZ violation?
Jains Coral Cove, Golden Kayaloram, H2O Holy Faith and Alfa Serene were demolished in Marudu. The order for its demolition was passed by the Supreme court on May 8, 2019.
Which companies undertook the demolition of Marudu flats?
Mumbai-based Edifices Engineering and Chennai-based Vijay Steels have been credited for planning and executing the entire drive without damaging the surroundings.
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