The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered demolition of five apartment complexes in Maradu municipality in Ernakulam district of Kerala for flouting Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha ordered demolition of the five complexes - Holy Faith Apartments, Kayaloram Apartments, Holiday Heritage, Alfa Ventures, and Jain Heritage - and observed that the state, devastated by last year's floods, cannot withstand another flood on account of illegal constructions.
Paul Raj Joseph of Alpha Ventures, one of the affected builders, said the builders will move review petitions before the court.
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The decision came on a Special Leave Petition filed by the State Coastal Zone Regulations Management Authority (CZMA).
Around 320 housing units at Maradu municipality will be affected by the Supreme Court order.
In 2010, builders were issued show-cause notices after an audit revealed irregularities. The High Court stayed this. In due course, constructions were completed and action became infructuous.
Maradu municipality secretary Subash said five building permits had been issued in 2005-06, and four real estate groups constructed the apartments. He said the issue has been pending before lower courts after the CZMA identified the violations.
When the building permits were issued in 2005-06, the issue of coastal zone violation didn't come up, and no one had raised objection or complained with the local body, he said. Later, when the panchayat was upgraded into municipality, the constructions came under the scanner of the CZMA.
"The builders had earlier moved the High Court against the Authority's directive. As the Authority didn't get a favourable verdict from HC, it appealed the Supreme Court," Subash said.
He said an expert committee appointed by the SC had found that multi-storey buildings cannot be allowed in region that comes under zone-III. The court has now ratified the committee's findings, he said.
Paul Raj of Alpha Ventures said: "When we were granted building permits in 2005, the HC had stated in another case that coastal zone mapping of Maradu was wrong. (So) we went ahead with constructions. When CZMA raised objections several years later, Maradu municipality backed them. We were not heard by the expert committee. The municipality has several waterbodies and if the law is implemented, many other structures, including houses, would have to be pulled down."
He said the project had cost Rs 50 crore when constructed in 2005-06.
K A Devasia, president of Maradu panchayat between 2000 and 2005, said that out of five building permits for apartments, two had been issued before 2000. The builders had got building permits after they moved the court. "If the Supreme Court order is implemented in Maradu, two flats and a prominent hospital have to be demolished. When these constructions began, coastal zone protection rules were not strict," he said.
Flat owner Ajaya Kumar said, "We were never told that the apartments we had bought violated rules. We occupied the flats a decade ago. We are considering legal options." Each flat had cost between Rs 35 lakh and Rs 40 lakh a decade back, it is learnt.
With inputs from -ENS, New Delhi