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Kerala to pay Rs 100cr in damages

Interim compensation to nearly 400 owners whose apartments are part of buildings that are to be demolished

By R. Balaji in New Delhi

  • Published 28.09.19, 5:30 AM
  • Updated 28.09.19, 5:30 AM
One of the apartment complexes awaiting demolition in Maradu, Kochi
One of the apartment complexes awaiting demolition in Maradu, Kochi (PTI)

The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Kerala government to pay an interim compensation of Rs 25 lakh each, totalling over Rs 100 crore, to nearly 400 owners whose apartments are part of buildings that are to be demolished as they had been constructed in a prohibited coastal regulation zone.

The state government is likely to pay from the public exchequer once a committee headed by a former Kerala High Court judge decides the final compensation amount. Each flat is stated to be valued between Rs 50-60 lakh. The interim compensation has to be paid within four weeks.

A Supreme Court bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Ravindra Bhat, however, asked the Kerala government to recover the amount from the builders and promoters who constructed the buildings at the prohibited zone in Ernakulam district. The recovery has to be done after the interim compensation is paid.

The court gave the Kerala government 138 days to demolish the illegal structures and clear the debris after senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the state, submitted an undertaking saying the buildings would be demolished within 90 days. Salve said the remaining 48 days would be required to clear the debris and protect the area from resultant environmental hazards.

The bench passed the direction after initially expressing the view that the state was not forthcoming in carrying out the demolition despite repeated directions from the court. Salve, however, pleaded that the government had to undertake several other preventive measures to avoid damaging the foundations of other buildings and structures that were not in the prohibited zone.

He said tenders had already been invited from eligible firms for carrying out the demolition.

The bench sought details of the promoters and builders, including their assets, to ensure that the properties could be attached for recovery of the compensation amount.

The court, however, turned down the plea by some lawyers appearing for the flat owners that they be allowed to stay in the yet-to-be demolished buildings till they received some compensation from the government.

Justice Mishra, heading the bench, asked the Kerala government to suggest names of the retired judges and bureaucrats who would determine the final compensation amount and apportion liability on the officials responsible for the construction of the buildings.

“It is a huge relief for us. God has answered our prayers,” 67-year-old Francis, a flat owner in one of the apartment complexes, said in Ernakulam, reacting to the top court’s order on compensation. “If the direction had been to the builders, we would have faced difficulties.”

George Kovoor, an elderly resident, however, said the court order to pay interim compensation was a small relief. But he expressed hope that the authorities would not demolish the homes they bought from the builders after completing all legal formalities.

An office-bearer of a residents’ association in another apartment complex facing demolition said some 10 to 20 families in the building would be worst affected by the decision to demolish the flats.

“I personally know about their sufferings. Some of them are under treatment for diseases like cancer and kidney failure. Their expenses for the treatment are borne by the association. We are worried about them,” he said, declining to be identified.

Sources said the local Maradu municipal authorities had started discussions with the companies that have evinced interest in carrying out the demolition of the four apartment complexes.

Additional reporting from PTI 

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