The Supreme Court has dismissed the review petitions filed by builders against the May 8 judgment of the Court directing the demolition of five apartment complexes in Maradu, Kochi, for violations of Coastal Regulation Zone notification.
"Having perused the review petitions and the connected papers with meticulous care, we do not find any justifiable reason to entertain the review petitions", stated the order passed by the bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha in chambers on Wednesday.
Last Friday, the same bench had dismissed the writ petitions filed by residents against the demolition order, after taking strong exception to a vacation bench granting interim stay of the demolition.
A visibly agitated Justice Mishra orally remarked that the vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi should not have entertained the writ petition filed by the residents. Justice Mishra hinted that the lawyers had indulged in bench hunting to obtain favourable orders in the case.
"We are inclined to pass strictures in the entire scenario that has been created in these petitions, but since the counsel has prayed for withdrawal, suffice it to observe that in future such things should not happen in this Court", said the bench in the order passed on July 5.
The residents approached the Court complaining that the demolition order was passed behind their back without hearing them.
The order was based on the report of a three-member committee appointed by the Court which stated that when the constructions were made, the area was designated as CRZ-III, where such constructions are prohibited. The Court also noted that Panchayat had granted the building permits without the concurrence of the Coastal Zone Management Authority, which was mandatory.
The builders of the apartments - Alpha Ventures Pvt Ltd, Holy Faith Builders and Developers Ltd, Jain Housing and Construction, K V Jose - filed review petitions against the judgment stating that the Court was misled by the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) into concluding that the constructions were made in violation of CRZ notification. According to the builders, the KCZMA was aware that the constructions are legal now, as the area is categorized as CRZ-II (where such constructions are permissible) in the Coastal Zone Management Plan prepared as per the 2011 CRZ notification. Though this plan was approved by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in February 2019, this was not brought to the notice of the Court by KCZMA "for reasons best known to it", the review petitions stated.
The builders placed reliance on Para 4.3 of the 2011 notification introduced as per amendment in March 2018, which allows the Government to give post-facto clearance for activities which are otherwise permissible. Since the building is situated in CRZ-II area as per the current CZMP, it is completely legal. The procedural lapses are curable as per law, and they should not be cited as a reason to demolish the apartments, which will affect nearly 400 families, they submitted.
The Court had taken the view that it was immaterial if constructions are permissible in the area at present. According to the bench, the relevant issue was whether the constructions were legal when they were made, and not whether they are permissible now.
The construction started in the year 2006 based on a building permit issued by the Maradu Grama Panchayath, which was later upgraded as Municipality. Based on an instruction from the State Government, the Panchayath issued a show-cause notice for revoking the building permit, citing CRZ violations. This was challenged in the High Court of Kerala. The High Court stayed the notices, and construction was carried out on the strength of Court's interim order. Later, the writ petitions by builders were allowed by the Court on the ground that Government had no power in law to issue instructions to a local self government authority.
Against this, the KCZMA appealed to the top court.
Click here to download the order in Review Petition
Click here to download the order passed in Writ Petition by residents
Read the order in Review Petition
Read the order passed on July 5 in writ petition