Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday said his government will take all possible legal measures to protect residents of an apartment complex in Ernakulam's Maradu locality.
The Supreme Court on May 8 had ordered within a month the demolition of five buildings of the complex as they were constructed in a notified Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), which was part of the tidally influenced water body in Kerala.
Earlier this month, the apex court pulled up the state government for non-compliance of its earlier order to demolish the apartment complexes and said the state was known for "not following" its directives. It had asked the state government to comply with its order by September 20, adding if a compliance report was not filed, the state chief secretary would be expected to appear before it on September 23.
Vijayan had called an all-party meeting to discuss the issue that affects about 350 families living in the apartments. The state government has reportedly written to the Centre requesting it to present before the apex court the environmental issues that may come up while demolishing the buildings. In a press release, the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said the Union environment minister has been apprised of the seriousness of the situation and urged to take up the case in the Supreme Court.
It was also decided at Tuesday’s meeting that, if required, an all-party team will be sent to meet central ministers.
“It’s the state government’s constitutional duty to implement the Supreme Court order, but, in this case, we can see many issues. A lot of people will lose their homes. No government can take a stand of building homes for homeless on the one hand, and demolish houses on the other,” Vijayan said.
The statement said the primary responsibility lay with builders and those who have permission to construct the building in the first place.
“The demand for compensation from builders is just and we will look at what can be done in this regard,” added Vijayan. The state government will also ensure that such builders are black-listed and prevented from conducting business in the future.
A report by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras has said it is not practical to complete the demolition process in such a short period, and that such a move would adversely affect the environment. It also said nearby buildings, canals and trees would suffer in the event of a demolition. Besides, there is the problem of air pollution. Even removing the debris will be a humongous task, the report added.
Meanwhile, a resident living in the apartments' neighbourhood has approached the Supreme Court expressing concern over the collateral damage if the demolition is carried out without proper planning and assessment of impact.
The petitioner said that for the past 66 years, he and his family have lived in a house adjacent to these buildings. He argued that their lives and property were in danger as the authorities are planning to carry out an implosion in the nearby apartment complex without any proper planning and assessment of impact of the demolition.
The demolition is "likely to cause havoc in the vicinity as the massive building, when demolished with an implosion, shall submerge the residence which is only 600 sq.ft of the petitioner herein and other such small houses located in and around the vicinity, full with the debris and rubble that is emitted from the demolition", the plea said.
The top court in July had dismissed a plea filed by the realtors, seeking a review of its May 8 order that was passed after taking note of a report of a three-member committee. The committee said that when the buildings were built, the area was already notified as a CRZ and construction was prohibited.
The court had earlier rejected a plea filed by the residents of the area against the demolition order and taken a strong exception to an order passed by a vacation bench during the summer break of the apex court, which had stayed the demolition of these buildings for six weeks.
However, former chief minister and senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader VS Achuthanandan said the Supreme Court ruling should be implemented. Even the CPI, which a part of the Left Democratic Alliance (LDF) government, has expressed its views in favour of following the court's directive and compensating flat owners.
CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran said, “In our opinion, builders cannot escape the responsibility and need to compensate the flat owners. There should be some legislation that will compel the builders to do the needful. It is not the duty of the government to give compensation. We have to demolish the building because that is the verdict of the Supreme Court. The court's ruling is obeyed in all cases and things can’t change for this particular issue.”
Congress leaders have, however, stated that humanitarian concerns cannot be overlooked and residents should be protected.
(With inputs from PTI)