New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday directed demolition of flats built on the coastal zone of Kochi's Maradu within 138 days and asked the Kerala government to pay Rs 25 lakh interim compensation to each flat owner within four weeks.
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.
A bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and S Ravindra Bhat 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 bench further said the government may consider recovering the interim compensation amount from the builders and the promoters.
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 apex court on September 23 had said that illegal construction in coastal areas of Kerala is a "colossal loss" to the environment, and had expressed shock over spate of unauthorised structures coming up at Kochi's Maradu.
The top court had said that it appears that the authorities, rather than preventing the violations, were trying to mobilize the public opinion and time has come to hold them responsible for their active connivance in such activities of degrading the environment and violation of the coastal zone regulations.
The apex court had also sought a concrete plan from the Kerala government on the removal of illegal structures.
On May 8, the apex court had directed that these buildings be removed within a month as they were constructed in a notified CRZ, which was part of the tidally-influenced water body in Kerala.
The court had passed the order after taking note of a report of a three-member committee, which said when the buildings were built, the area was already notified as a CRZ and construction was prohibited.
Earlier, the court had rejected a plea filed by the residents of the area against the demolition order and taken a strong exception to an order passed by a vacation bench during the summer break of the apex court, which had stayed the demolition of these buildings for six weeks.