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SC pulls up Kerala govt over illegal apartments

SC pulls up Kerala govt over illegal apartments

New Delhi/Kochi: 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.

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