350 Families Cling On To Posh Homes In Kerala’s Kochi As Demolition Deadline Ends

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Some 350 families are defying eviction notice at a posh residential area in Kochi, as the deadline to vacate their flats in five buildings ends today. The families say justice has been denied to them. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has also called an all-party meeting in state capital Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

Now, a former judge of the Kerala High Court has backed the residents in their fight against the eviction notice. Justice Kamal Pasha said he believes “principles of natural justice” have been violated in the legal process.

“I feel that the true picture was not brought before the Supreme Court. Distorted facts were brought before the judges,” Justice Pasha told NDTV.

The protesting residents include celebrities from the film industry, retired and working professionals and senior citizens. The five buildings are at the border of a lake and close to a National Highway, which violated environmental norms under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), according to the Supreme Court.

“The government should have challenged the report of the sub-committee appointed by the Supreme Court. The report is not at all valid. It’s unfortunate that the house owners feel that they have not been heard at all. They tried to tell the Supreme Court of the true state of affairs, but they were not permitted. And not even heard. All this is against principles of natural justice. I think that this view has resulted in substantial miscarriage of justice,” Justice Pasha said.

The Supreme Court, based on the report, said the structures need to be demolished by September 20 because they fell under CRZ I and III at the time of their construction. Under CRZ III, construction is not allowed up to 200 metres from a water body, but that restriction does not apply to structures under CRZ II.

Builders and some infrastructure officials including the Maradu Muncipality Chairperson TH Nadeera said the flats, according to the revised CRZ mapping, fall under CRZ II. “I am told these flats fall under CRZ II in the revised notification, though we are yet to officially receive it. This means, there aren’t restrictions on building flats afresh in the same area, even if they are demolished with retrospective effect,” the Chairperson said.

The confusion on the part of officials is also seen in an affidavit filed by the local panchayat before the High Court in 2007. The affidavit had said, “This area falls under CRZ II, though the area is catagorised mistakenly under CRZ I and III.”

“It’s a peculiar situation. It was said that the buildings were in Coastal Regulation  Zone III, when in fact by applying standards of the 2003 judgement in the Lakeshore Hospital case by the High Court of Kerala, it was to be considered as Zone II and not III,” Justice Pasha said. “When that judgement is final, there is no meaning in saying these constructions were in CRZ III,” he said.

“If these huge structures are demolished, in this thickly populated area with several residential neighbourhoods, the lives of thousands of people in the surrounding will be affected due to pollution and further environmental and coastal damage. Highways and bridges will be affected around these areas. These issues were not brought before the (Supreme) Court,” Justice Pasha said.

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