By P. Sreekumaran
The Marad flats issue, which has hogged national headlines, has entered the final phase with the actual demolition of the apartment complexes, ordered by the Supreme Court, beginning from Friday.
Marad was a sleepy town with no pretensions to fame till the Supreme Court order on demolition of the four apartment complexes came on May 8, 2019. The demolition of over 340 flats in four apartment complexes, built in blatant violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ) rules, is part of the plan of action submitted by the Kerala Government for speedy implementation of the apex court order.
The court, it may be mentioned, had strongly criticised the State Government for the delay in implementing its order dated May 8, 2019. In its order, the court had accused the Kerala Government of actually trying to help the violators of law, instead of complying with the order. The Government had then submitted an action plan for execution of the apex court order.
With the court insisting on implementation of its order, the hopes of over 340 flat owners of saving their flats have been dashed to the ground. Most of the flat owners have shifted from the four Marad apartment complexes.
The flat owners had hoped that they would be dealt with in the manner in which the court had handled the Navi Mumbai airport project, the Adarsh housing society in Mumbai and the now-abandoned POSCO project in Odisha, which had fallen foul of the CRZ rules.
But the Supreme Court obviously wants to treat the Kerala case in a different manner. By refusing to stay the demolition of flats, the SC has sent a powerful message to the law-breakers: that violation of environmental laws will no longer be condoned and that such violations will be stopped right from the beginning stage. The court feels that alone will have a deterrent effect.
The flat owners had moved court on the ground that they had not been heard in the matter and that the court should kindly give them a hearing. But the SC refused to budge and in fact ordered the registry of the court not to admit any more petitions on the Marad issue.
But the court gave the flat owners relief when it ordered that they should be given compensation of Rs 25 lakh each, and that the compensation should be deducted from the builders. The order to the Kerala Government was that the compensation should be given to the flat owners within four weeks.
Needless to say, the court order has come as a big relief to the flat owners, who have all along held that they were suffering for no fault of theirs.
Legal experts say the failure of the flat owners to implead themselves as a party to the case was a serious lapse on their part. Had they done that, the whole issue would have taken a different turn, and , perhaps, the actual demolition could have been avoided.
The Supreme Court has actually tried to set Kerala as an example as there has always been a tendency in the State to violate the CRZ rules on the flimsy ground of high land prices, real estate pressure, long coastal network and high population density.
The Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority(KCZMA) has often succumbed to to the pressure from politicians and builder lobbies to turn a blind eye to violation of environmental laws and the resultant corruption. It is hoped that the latest SC verdict will have a salutary effect and violation of environmental rules will become a thing of the past.(IPA Service)