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    Political parties rally behind owners of Kochi flats facing demolition

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    Kochi: Political parties in Kerala including the ruling CPI(M), opposition Congress and the BJP on Saturday rallied behind the owners of flats in Maradu facing demolition following a Supreme Court order for violation of Coastal Regulation Zone rules.

    Expressing concern over the fate of the flat owners, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan said he could not comment publicly as the matter was sub judice.

    "You know something which is sub judice, it will not be proper for me to comment on it publicly. But yes, I feel concerned... I feel concerned.

    What the government shall do, what I will do, cannot be spelt out at this stage because the matter is sub judice," the Governor told reporters in Kozhikode when media drew his attention to the issue.

    Alleging that the state government was not with the flat owners, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala urged the government to submit a new affidavit in the Supreme Court, saying the court appointed three-member sub-committee had not spoken to the residents before submitting their report.

    Earlier, the flat owners had alleged that the three-member committee did not give them a proper hearing on the show-cause notice pertaining to violations.

    Chennithala alleged the sub-committee did not even consider changes brought in the CRZ rules before submitting their report to the Supreme Court.

    "So the government should direct the Chief Secretary to submit a new affidavit in the Apex Court citing all these lapses in the sub-committee report considered by the Supreme Court.

    And the government should seek permission from the Supreme Court to withdraw that report and submit a new report," the senior Congress leader said after visiting the protesting flat owners here.

    He accused the CPI(M)-led LDF government of giving an affidavit in the Supreme Court expressing its willingness to demolish the apartment complexes.

    Chennithala also urged the government to take urgent measures to resolve the problem.

    CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan also visited the flat owners, expressing his party's solidarity with them.

    He assured them that the party-led government would take all possible measures to solve the problem.

    "We are with you. The flat owners have not committed any sort of illegality. It was the builders and the officials who gave sanction to construct the complexes in the CRZ zone are the real culprits," Balakrishnan told the flat owners.

    He said natural justice was denied to the people residing the flats ordered to be erazed.

    The CPI(M) leader said if the Apex Court order was implemented, that will have a long lasting impact as in Kochi alone many such buildings were constructed in such zones.

    Balakrishnan appealed to all political parties to set aside their differences and stand united with the flat owners.

    BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai asked the government to convene an all party meeting to discuss the issue.

    He also urged the political parties work together to ensure justice for the affected people.

    The owners have said they would not leave their residences. They demanded adequate compensation and proper rehabilitation.

    The municipal authorities, who had issued the notices asking the residents of around 350 flats to vacate, reiterated on Saturday that they would take the next step based on directions from the state government.

    The notices were issued to the owners of flats in five apartment complexes asking them to vacate their residences to implement the Apex Court order directing demolition of the structures constructed in violation of CRZ notifications.

    The state government had on Monday initiated steps to implement the apex court order and given directions to the municipality to take immediate action for evacuating the residents and rehabilitating them in coordination with the Ernakulam District Collector.

    The top court had on May 8 directed that removal of the buildings within a month as they were constructed in a notified CRZ, which was part of a water body known to be hit by tides.

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