Kochi: In a mixed reaction, a section of owners of flats built in the coastal zone here on Friday hailed as "huge relief" the Supreme Court ordering Rs 25 lakh interim compensation while others rued that the directive to demolish their dwellings would still hit them hard.
In its orders on Friday, the court directed demolition of the flats in Maradu within 138 days in accordance with the time schedule provided by the Kerala government and asked it to pay Rs 25 lakh interim compensation to each flat owner within four weeks.
"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 facing demolition, said reacting to the top court order on compensation.
Francis said he was happy as the court ordered the government to pay the interim compensation. "If the direction had been to the builders, we would have faced difficulties," he added.
He said although the interim relief determined by the court was not enough to compensate the loss he suffered, the amount can be utilised for finding another home in the city.
Francis said he and his wife were pained to leave the home they had bought spending their hard earned money.
"But we will have to cooperate as it is the verdict of the apex court. There is no other way out," he said.
George Kovoor, an elderly resident, said the court order to pay interim compensation has given small relief.
But he still 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.
Functionaries of the residents' associations said they would sit together and discuss the future course of action as the legal options are now almost closed for stalling demolition of apartment complexes.
The owners have been refusing to vacate their houses as ordered by the local civic body in its pre-demolition notices and power and water supply lines were disconnected on Thursday at the four apartment complexes.
The notices were issued recently after the apex court came down on the state government for failure to implement its earlier order for demolition of the flats.
Meanwhile, sources said the Maradu municipal authorities have started discussions with the companies that have evinced interest in carrying out the demolition of the four apartment complexes with over 300 flats.
The Supreme Court on Friday also ordered setting up of a one-member committee of a retired high court judge to oversee 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 and said the government might consider recovering the interim compensation amount from them.
On Wednesday,a case had been registered by the Kochi police against three builders under IPC sections related to cheating and criminal breach of trust based on complaints by the residents of the flats.
State Police Chief Loknath Behera on Thursday handed over the case to the Special Investigation Team constituted to probe the case.