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Kochi flats residents finally move out, SC panel takes over

Kochi flats residents finally move out, SC panel takes over

Kochi: After waging a brief battle over moving out from the Maradu flat complex here, slated for razing by the Supreme Court, almost all residents have vacated the apartments and the last few are busy shifting their belongings, as the apex court-appointed three-member committee takes over the demolition and also for finalising the compensation.

The apex court had, on September 6, ordered demolition of the complex by September 20 for violating the Coastal Regulation Zone rules and had given time till Thursday for all to vacate the flats.

The 240 families who occupied flats in the four buildings in the Maradu complex, which comprises 356 flats, have for all practical purposes, left, while some are busy moving out their belongings, which is being done under police supervision, giving no chance for anyone to stay back.

The Supreme Court, when it gave the directive for eviction, had directed setting up of a three-member committee, headed by retired Kerala High Court judge K. Balakrishnan Nair, to see to the distribution of compensation and also the steps for demolition.

After the first round of meeting between Nair and high-ranking state government officials, Nair told the media that he has begun his work.

"I will now hear the government, the builders and the flat owners to finalise the compensation payment as directed by the apex court and this will happen very soon. The government will first pay the compensation which will be recovered from the builder," he said.

The first task that Nair would have to deal with is the compensation which the apex court has fixed at a maximum of Rs 25 lakh and he will decide if further compensation needs to be given.

However, what has now surfaced is many of the flat owners, at the time of registration, put the value of flats around Rs 2-3 lakh only to save on the hefty stamp duty.

Speaking to the media, senior bureaucrat Usha Titus, who led the talks with Nair, later told the media that things like valuation of the flats will have to be looked into and decided by the apex court-appointed committee.

"We expect to get the office of this committee set up very fast so as to see that they are able to work," she said.

The state government will soon have to provide a retired IAS officer and a civil engineer to complete the committee that Nair heads.

Meanwhile, Kerala Police's Crime Branch chief, Tomin Thachenkery, who has been entrusted with the job of probing how the builders were able to build these flats and who were all responsible for this, was spotted at the flat complex and said his work is going on well and will soon be able to zero down on what and how this happened.

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