The Muvattupuzha Vigilance Court on Tuesday ordered a preliminary inquiry against Kochi Mayor Soumini Jain and MLA PT Thomas, for allegedly violating Coastal Regulation Zone rules. The probe has been ordered in connection with the alleged reclamation of Kochappally canal at Chilavannoor in Kochi.
The probe by Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) will be carried out against 16 respondents including Kochi Mayor, Thrikkakara MLA PT Thomas and present and former secretaries of Kochi Corporation. The probe was initiated by the Vigilance Court after Kochi native and RTI activist KT Cheshire filed a petition challenging the reclamation of a part of the backwater stretch to construct roads. He has pointed out in the petition that reclamation of a canal stretch will pave way for waterlogging and other natural disasters in the future.
The court has also ordered VACB to submit a report after the preliminary inquiry on February 20, 2020.
According to the petitioner, the canal stretch was reclaimed to construct a road to the 22 acres of land which is now in possession of the Ernakulam Co-operative Housing Construction Society. He has also alleged that the canal stretch was filled up mostly during nights. The filling up of the canal was in violation of Kerala Conservation of Wetland and Paddy Land Act, 2018 and CRZ norms, the petition states.
The petitioner told the court that the canal had been instrumental in solving the issues of waterlogging in ward number 57 of Kochi Corporation region.
According to Cheshire, despite several complaints given to multiple officials to look into the issue of reclamation of the canal, no action was taken. Though a complaint was filed with the ombudsman and he ordered the measuring of the canal, the petitioner has alleged that the Kochi Corporation did not comply with the orders.
It is also alleged that MLA PT Thomas had plans to construct a children's park in the region as part of the move to regularise the reclamation of canal stretch to help the encroachers. Detailed hearing in the case will again be held in February 2020, after VACB files the inquiry report.