The apartment buildings were constructed when Maradu in Kochi was a gram panchayat, but the panchayat was upgraded to municipality in 2010.

Interim relief for 400 apartment owners in Kochi SC stays demolitionMidhun J
news Environment/Housing Tuesday, June 11, 2019 - 12:12

Temporarily easing the nerves of about 400 flat owners in Kochi, the Supreme Court has ordered to hold the demolition the apartment buildings that were built in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms.

After considering the writ petition filed by a section of residents, the SC put forward an interim order delaying demolition of the apartments by six weeks.

The May 8 verdict of Supreme Court had stated that apartment buildings that violated CRZ norms in Maradu were to be demolished within a month. Five builders had been granted permission to construct apartments flouting CRZ rules by the local body in Maradu. Accordingly four apartment buildings – Holy Faith, Kayaloram, Alfa Ventures and Jain Housing — were constructed and currently houses residents. One apartment is yet to be built.

The writ petition filed by residents pointed out that the three-member committee — constituted by the Supreme Court in 2018 to hear objections to the demolition of the buildings — did not provide a chance for residents to address their concerns. The three-member committee consisted of the secretary of Maradu municipality, chief municipal officer of the municipality and the District Collector. The SC’s recent May 8 verdict to demolish the buildings was based on this committee’s report.

The interim order was given by Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Ajay Rasstogi.

“It is urged by the learned senior counsel that the attention of this Court was not drawn to the fact that the flat owners had not been given an opportunity of hearing,” the order says.

The writ petition had also stated that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had approved the new Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs). Meanwhile, the SC on Monday noted that the three member committee had informed that CZMP prepared on the basis of 2011 CRZ notification was not approved by the Centre.

“The court directed the buildings to be demolished within a period of one month from May 8, in the view of the findings of the committee,” the interim order states.

As per the committee report, the apartment buildings are located in a CRZ 3 category area, in accordance with 1996 CZMP. As per the new CZMP, the land is located in CRZ 2 category. CRZ 2 includes urban areas, where construction activities are allowed on landward side. Whereas, CRZ 3 includes relatively undisturbed areas (mainly rural). No new construction of buildings are allowed in this zone except for the repair work of already existing ones.

The apartment buildings were constructed when Maradu was a gram panchayat, thereby coming under CRZ 3. But the panchayat was upgraded to municipality in 2010. The CZMP prepared in 2011, states that the area is now classified as CRZ 2.

Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Ajay Rasstogi in the interim order stated that it would not be appropriate for the bench to pass an order contradicting an earlier order by another bench. “Judicial propriety demands that we direct that these writ petitions be listed before the Bench which passed the May 8 order,” it said. The petition will be again heard on first week of July 2019. Till then buildings cannot be demolished.

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