SC takes judicial notice of Kerala Floods, orders removal of all construction from Coastal Regulatory Zone in state

SC takes judicial notice of Kerala Floods, orders removal of all construction from Coastal Regulatory Zone in state

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court has directed for the removal of all illegal structures built on the notified Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) at the Maradu municipality of Kerala’s Ernakulam District.

The structures that were built in violation of the CRZ Regulations will have to be removed from the area within a period of one month, ruled the Supreme Court in its recent judgment. While ordering the same, the Court observed that construction in Coastal Regulatory Zone areas can be allowed only after consultation with the Coastal Zone Management Authority.

The judgment rendered by a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha also took note of the devastating floods that recently ravaged Kerala, and observed that the same was on account of “unbridled construction activity” that resulted in huge losses. The Court said,

“We take judicial notice of recent devastation in Kerala which had taken place due to such unbridled construction activities resulting into collossal loss of human life and property.”

The appellant in the case, the State Coastal Zone Management Authority, had issued show cause notices to various builders who were carrying out construction activities in areas that were critically vulnerable coastal areas notified as CRZ-III. The notices were issued asking why the permissions issued to the builders, in violation of relevant statutory provisions, ought not to be cancelled.

The builders moved the Kerala High Court against the show cause notices to them. They claimed that they were given permission for carrying out construction by local bodies. However, these permissions were in violation of statutory provisions, given that the local bodies were required to forward applications for such permissions along with relevant reports to the appellant body. This binding duty of the local bodies was not discharged.

The High Court had allowed the writ petitions of the builders on the ground that the builders cannot be penalized for the failure of the local bodies in complying with statutory provisions. Aggrieved by the same, the appellant body moved the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court observed that a Coastal Zone Management Plan was prepared in order to check the construction activities in notified areas, and that the High Court had ignored the significance of the same.

The Court also took cognizance of the report submitted by a three-member committee constituted by the Court to appreciate the interests of all stakeholders involved/ Upon examining the same, the Court found that the area where construction was being carried out was a notified CRZ-III area, that is, a ‘no development zone’. It has been a CRZ-III area since 1991, and remained so at the time the construction began.

The local body failed to consult the appellant body before granting permission for construction while it ought to have done so, the Court said. It thus found the permissions to be “illegal and void”. The Court also highlighted the importance of the CRZ area, and stated in its judgment,

“The area in which the respondents have carried out construction activities is part of tidal influenced water body and the construction activities in those areas are strictly restricted under the provisions of the CRZ Notifications. Uncontrolled construction activities in these areas would have devastating effects on the natural water flow that may ultimately result in severe natural calamities.”

In view of the findings of the committee report, the Court, therefore, directed for all the construction to be removed from the area forthwith.

Read the Judgment:

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news