This story was first published on 26 September 2019. It has been updated to reflect the demolition of the four buildings.
All four apartment complexes at Kochi’s Maradu municipality, built in violation of CRZ norms, were razed to the ground over the weekend, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s 2019 order.
The four complexes — Alfa Serene, H20 Holy Faith, Jains Coral Cove and Golden Kayaloram — housed 343 flats which cost between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1.5 crore, according to The NewsMinute.
Jains Coral Cove and Golden Kayaloram were the last two to be demolished on Sunday.
The Supreme Court had in September 2019 directed demolition of the apartment complexes within 138 days, a timeline given by the Kerala government.
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 had been prohibited.
What happened to the residents?
The state government on September 24, 2019, issued notices to the residents to vacate the buildings.
According to TNM, 246 families who had occupied the flats were made to leave while over 300 homeowners lost their savings as a result of the demolition.
After the SC order, the administration had disconnected power and water supply to the apartments, but the residents had said they would not leave their flats “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 had then said.
The families staged protests for several days refusing to vacate, before relenting. The Supreme Court refused to entertain review petitions filed by the residents.
In October, the top court ordered an interim compensation of Rs 25 lakh each to the owners of the flats.
What happened to the flat builders?
Before the SC order, the builders had claimed that they received the permit for construction before the Coastal Regulation Zone Act came into force
The police in September registered FIRs against builders, who constructed apartments at Maradu, following complaints by flat owners that they had been cheated. The city police commissioner said the three builders were charged under IPC Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) on the complaints of people who lived in the apartments.
Police froze bank accounts of all four builders on court orders.
The state police’s crime branch arrested the directors of the company. Later, the directors were released on bail.
Two Maradu panchayat officials were also arrested for granting permits for the construction of the buildings.
Where is Maradu?
The Maradu municipality in Kochi is spread over 12.35 sq km and is densely populated with a population of 3,619 per sq km RPT per sq km. Two National Highways NH-47 and NH-47(A) pass through this area.
What did the Supreme Court say?
The government took the steps to implement the Supreme Court order after it expressed shock over a spate of unauthorised structures coming up at Kochi’s Maradu, saying illegal construction in coastal areas of Kerala was a “colossal loss” to the environment.
The court asked the Chief Secretary to conduct a survey to gauge the extent of devastation caused to nature and said it would pass a detailed order on September 27 on the issue.
The Supreme Court had earlier asked the state government to file a compliance report by September 20, failing which the Chief Secretary would have to be present before it.
The government, in its affidavit, had given details of number of flats and the demography of the area, saying there are 343 flats in the four multi-storeyed apartment buildings covering 68,028.71 square meters.
In July 2019, the top court dismissed a plea by the realtors, seeking a review of its May 8 order, which directed removal of the buildings in a month as they were built in a notified CRZ, part of the tidally-influenced water body in Kerala.
The court had earlier rejected a plea by the residents of the area against the demolition order and taken strong exception to an order passed by a vacation bench during the summer break of the apex court, which had stayed the demolition of the buildings for six weeks.
(With inputs from PTI)