The Maradu municipality in Ernakulam has started the procedure to vacate more than 300 families from their apartments and demolish the four buildings before the Supreme Court-set deadline of September 20. With not much hope to retain their houses, the families have now come onto to the streets, protesting and demanding to stop the eviction.
But how did these apartment buildings, which are at least over 10 years old, get entangled in the years-old legal battle?
The four apartment buildings - Jains Coral Cove, Golden Kayaloram, H2O Holy Faith and Alfa Serene – received the permission for construction before 2005. That time Maradu was a gram panchayat, it was upgraded to municiplaity in November 2010.
Speaking to TNM, KA Devassy, who was the president of Maradu gram panchayat back in 2005, says that it all started during a vigilance probe against a panchayat official.
“The then secretary of the panchayat was facing a vigilance probe by the Local Self Government Department (LSGD) in an issue. When the vigilance wing of LSGD came for inspection, they seized all files on the secretary’s table and among them were files of the building permits of many apartments, including the four apartment buildings in question,” says Devassy.
He says that the 4 apartments facing demolition were among 13 other apartment buildings that the vigilance team said were given permits by the panchayat, violating the CRZ norms. The four builders had started the construction by 2006. In June 2007, on the direction of the vigilance wing of LSGD, the panchayat issued a show-cause notice to the builders.
“While all 13 builders were issued the notice, five of them approached the High Court, and that was the beginning of the legal battle,” said Devassy, who is now a councillor of Maradu municipality.
The High Court stayed notices, which sought to cancel the permission to the buildings.
With the interim order, Jain Housing and Construction Ltd (Jains Coral Cove), KP Varkey & VS Builders (Golden Kayaloram), Holy Faith Builders and Developers Pvt Ltd (H2O Holy Faith) and Alfa Ventures Private Ltd (Alfa Serene) continued the construction. Since Holiday Heritage was yet to begin construction, they scrapped the project.
By 2010, Marudu grama panchayat got elevated as a municipality.
The Maradu municipality moved the Division Bench of the High Court with an appeal against the single bench’s decision, although it was dismissed. It was after this that the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) became a party to the case and moved the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court observed that the writ petitions were filed directly in the HC, without giving a reply to the show-cause notice. In its judgment on May 8, the SC ordered the demolition of the buildings.
The builders filed a writ petition, stating that the apex court-appointed three-member committee did not give them a proper hearing on the show-cause notice pertaining to violations.
All through the legal battle, the flats were being occupied by residents, who now claim that they were not aware of the case.
“Ultimately, we the residents living here are bound to face the consequences,” said advocate Shamsudheen Karunagapally, chairperson of Maradu Bhavana Samrakshana Samithi (Maradu house protection council).
The residents, who are now left with not many options, are planning to move the High Court with writ petitions, stating that they have not been given a notice period before being asked to vacate.