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SC pulls up Kerala govt over illegal apartments, says conduct of CS on demolition order is of defiance

twitter-logoPTI | September 23, 2019 | Updated 20:41 IST

(Eds: combining related stories) New Delhi/Kochi, Sep 23 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Kerala government for not complying with its order to demolish four apartment complexes at Maradu in Kochi built in violation of norms in coastal areas, telling its chief secretary his conduct is of defiance and warning he will now be in "great difficulty". Expressing shock over a spate of unauthorised structures at Marad in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, the court also asked Chief Secretary Tom Jose, who was present in the courtroom following its direction, to conduct a survey to gauge the extent of devastation caused to nature. Illegal construction in coastal areas of Kerala have caused a "colossal loss" to the environment, it said. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Sharan and S Ravindra Bhatt said it will pass a detailed order on September 27 on the matter. Kerala minister A C Moideen said the state was bound by the apex court order and will follow the law while Jose said there was a constitutional duty to follow it. Moideen and Jose were talking to reporters in Kochi and Delhi respectively after the apex court came down heavily on the state government. The top court said the chief secretary has not specified in his affidavit as to how much time is needed to comply with the apex court order to demolish the four apartment complexes. "How much time you will need for compliance? You have not stated this in your affidavit. Now we are telling you are acting in defiance. You will be in great difficulty. You should conduct a survey to gauge the extent of devastation caused to nature. Do you know the extent of colossal loss caused to the nature. We are shocked to see this. No permissions were taken from the coastal zone authority. This cannot happen," the bench said. "What is happening there we know. We will fix responsibility on those responsible. This is a colossal loss to the coastal zone area. It's a high tide area and hundreds of illegal structures have come up in the coastal zone." In an affidavit, the chief secretary had assured the top court that its order would be complied with and the process for selecting a specialised agency for "controlled implosion" to demolish the buildings is underway. The court earlier asked the state government to file a compliance report before it by September 20 failing which the chief secretary will have to be present before it on September 23. "Have you any idea how many people have died due to floods because of the devastation caused to the environment? You are playing with nature. Thousands of people have died in devastations. How many houses have you built for victims? Yet illegal structures continue to come up in coastal areas," the bench told the chief secretary. It said that Attorney General K K Venugopal in some other matter has told the bench, that in India there should be a law of tort. "We agree with the Attorney General. If law of tort (law on civil wrong and liabilities thereof) had developed in this country, then accountability could have been fixed on the people responsible for destroying the environment," it said. The court said that there are around 350 families who will be affected by this demolition drive but who will save them. "You don't understand what is happening in this area. Officers are responsible for this mess as they were not able to stop the illegal construction in this area," it said. Senior advocate Harish Salve said he had asked the chief secretary to submit a detailed plan indicating the time needed to comply with the order. "You (Salve) are a senior counsel and may not be knowing what is happening there. He (chief secretary) knows very well what is going on. They are only holding meetings and meetings," the court said. Moideen, the Local Self Government minister, said the only option is to follow the law. "We can find a solution only through the courts. Government has its limitations in this matter. State government is bound to implement the Supreme Court order. "We cannot take a stand against the apex court order. We will try to understand what the top court is saying in this final order and act accordingly," he told reporters. Some representatives of the residents association, said they still have hope that the apex court will consider their plight. "We came to know that the final order will be out only on Friday. Our representatives are there in Delhi. We still have hope. Some of our petitions are still pending in the court. We are innocent," a representative of the residents told reporters. State Minister M M Mani said the court could have insisted on fixing responsibility on the builders to provide compensation. "It's not easy to demolish the building. There are hundreds of families staying there. While demolishing, we will have to deal with environmental issues...," he added. PTI MNL ABA SA RRT BN GSN GSN GSN

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