New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Kerala government to demolish the four flats in Maradu in Kerala's Ernakulam district.
The bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Ravindra Bhat also directed Kerala government to pay interim compensation of Rs 25 lakhs to each apartment owner within four weeks.
The court said the amount should be recovered from the builders and the promoters, reported Live Law. The bench directed freezing of assets of builders and promoters who were involved in the construction of illegal buildings in the coastal zone areas of Kochi.
The top court also ordered setting up of a one-member committee of retired high court judge to oversee the demolition and assess total compensation.
The court order dashed the hopes of the 357 families, who have been expecting a change in court's stand.
Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose was present at the hearing. The court said his presence would not be required during the next hearing on October 25.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Kerala government, informed the bench that power and water supply were disconnected to the four apartment complexes in Kochi on Thursday.
The apex court said there should be no reason for delay in demolition and gave the example of Kant enclave in Faridabad where illegal structures have been demolished, and modalities of recovering the money from those responsible for such construction has been worked out.
The bench clarified that the court's primary concern was that no construction should have been carried out at the eco-fragile coastal zone and the question was not regarding any individual.
While Salve was making submissions relating to the nitty gritty of demolition exercise that has to be carried out, the bench said, "If you cannot do it, we will think of involving some other outside agency."
Salve said the state government has submitted a plan under which in 138 days the structure would be demolished - including 90 days for demolition and 38 days for removing of debris.
He said the buildings need to be brought down through implosion and expert agency will be appointed by October 11 to carry out the work.
The bench, then asked Salve about the proposal of state government and what he thinks of compensation to be given to the flat owners.
Salve suggested that an interim compensation of Rs 25 lakh each to the flat owners should be paid by the state government, which shall be recovered from the builders and the promoters.
"Whatever, they have paid to the builder, government will pay back to them. The government will later recover it from the builders. It will be better if a committee is constituted headed by a retired High Court judge, a technical person and a civil person, who would assess the total compensation payable to them as well as supervise the demolition work," Salve said.
The bench, then asked Salve to suggest a name of retired High Court judge and said that it will be a one member committee as the committee should not create hurdles in the exercise.
It said that Maradu Panchayat was also hand in glove with the builders and promoters in allowing the illegal construction and "we should also hold them liable under the law of tort (law of civil wrong and the liabilities thereof)".
Salve said that they have called for the report and accountability will be fixed.
The court had first ordered demolition of the apartments on May 8, 2019, followed by an ultimatum on September 6. Last week, the court once again came down heavily on the state government for its failure to raze the flats. "We are really shocked,” Justice Arun Mishra remarked.
The Kerala government on Tuesday prepared the action plan for the flat demolition. It constituted a nine-member committee, comprising of engineering experts, to oversee the demolition drive.
According to the plan, the demolition process will begin on September 28 and will be completed on February 9, 2020.
(With inputs from PTI)