New Delhi: The Kerala government told the Supreme Court Friday that it has taken requisite steps to comply with the court's direction to demolish four apartment complexes constructed at Kochi's Maradu in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notifications.
In an affidavit, the Chief Secretary of Kerala has 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.
Urging the apex court to exempt him from personal appearance before it on September 23, Chief Secretary Tom Jose said, "I tender my unqualified apology for any aspect on my conduct which this court construes not to be in accordance with its order."
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had on September 6 pulled up the Kerala government for non-compliance of its order to demolish these buildings and said the state was known for "not following" its directives.
The top court had 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.
In his affidavit, the Chief secretary said that tenders have been floated for controlled implosion of the buildings and 15 specialised agencies had applied for the work as on September 16.
"The selection process is under progress", he said adding, "the government has taken all steps to comply with the direction of this court. Therefore I humbly request the court to exempt me from personal appearance".
Referring to the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994 and Kerala Panchayat Act, 1994, he said that Maradu was a Panchayat and in 2010 it was upgraded as a Muncipality.
"Under both the Acts, the power of giving permits to buildings and the demolition of buildings violating rules rest with the concerned Panchayat/Municipality", he said.
He said that after receiving the September 6 order of the apex court, the secretary of Maradu Municipality was directed to take urgent action to "evacuate the inhabitants in the buildings mentioned in the order and rehabilitate them in coordination with the district collector, Ernakulam and invite short tender immediately to select a suitable agency for the safe and secure demolition of the buildings".
"The municipality was assured of all assistance from the government of Kerala to implement the orders of this court," the affidavit said and added "It was underscored that non-compliance of the Supreme Court order will be viewed very seriously and will invite disciplinary action".
Giving details of the number of flats and the demography of the area, the affidavit said, "There are 343 flats in the four multi-storeyed apartment buildings covering an area of 68,028.71 square meter. The municipality has an area of 12.35 sq km and is densely populated with a population of 3,619 sq kms. Two national highways namely NH-47 and NH-47(A) pass through this area".
He said the process requires appropriate technology and machinery for the demolition and expeditious disposal of debris.
"As on today, there are space constraints for the proper disposal of the waste/debris; without proper study and planning, if the entire structure is demolished in one go, it would result in larger ecological disaster seriously prejudicing the inhabitants and environment of even the nearby places. This is one of the first instances of demolition of buildings of this magnitude and
nature," it said.
The Chief secretary said that it is also a fact that the concerned department "lacks experience and expertise in handling this situation in a very short time".
He said that he along with the district collector had on September 9, visited the site to prepare for the demolition and inform the apartment owners and residents, the need to comply with the apex court order.
He said that secretary of the municipality had affixed notices on the building complexes to inform the builders and the residents to evacuate within five days. The top court had in July dismissed a plea filed by the realtors, seeking a review of its May 8 order.
On May 8, the apex court had directed that these buildings be removed within a month as they were constructed in a notified CRZ, which was part of the tidally-influenced water body in Kerala.
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 was prohibited.
Earlier, the court had 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.