THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In its latest move, Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA) has filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the High Court division bench verdict in letting DLF not to demolish part of its 180 odd flats constructed reclaiming the Chilavannur backwaters.
The division bench had acknowledged DLF’s violation of Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) norms and had directed it to pay a fine of Rs. 1 crore as compensation for environment damage.
The petitioner, KSCZMA is a statutory body constituted under the Environment [Protection] Act, 1986. It is a 12-member Authority, chaired by State Science and Technology Department principal secretary and Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) member secretary as the Authority’s member secretary. It has senior officials as its members drawn from various departments including environment, pollution control, industry, fisheries among others.
“We have filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court challenging the High Court verdict which is against the rule of law as there can be no fine charged for major violations over reclaiming water bodies violating CRZ norms. According to the rule, it has to be demolished,” KSCZMA member and scientist told media.
The counsel Adv. Vipin Nair who filed the petition for KSCZMA in the Supreme Court on Saturday told media that “These serious lapses fraught with enormous collateral ecological damages cannot and should not ever be allowed by the Courts to be regularised as has been erroneously done by the High Court Division Bench in the impugned judgement and condoned by payment of a monetary fine”.
The impugned judgment of the division bench is patently illegal as it ignores the law laid down by the Supreme Court to the effect that the construction that is in violation of the CRZ Notification cannot be regularised under any circumstances, he said. The Supreme Court hearing on the petition is expected within ten days, he said.
The petition cites that reclamation of water body is a prohibited activity as per the provisions of CRZ notifications of 1991 and 2011. This amounts to blatant violation of provisions of CRZ notification. In its verdict, the High Court division bench on Dec 21, 2016 had erroneously set aside the Learned Single Judge’s direction issued on Dec 8 2014 to demolish the entire illegal and unauthorized structure, the counsel said. The High Court Division Bench further, directed the authorities to “regularize” the construction under CRZ Notification and also directed the DLF to pay a flea-bite fine of Rs. 1 crore towards compensation for the damage caused to the coastal area and environment in violation of CRZ norms, he said.
A three-member committee of KSCZMA constituted in 2014 with Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean studies (KUFOS) vice-chancellor A Ramachandran, Prof K Padmakumar and KSCSTE principal scientific officer Kamalakshan Kokkal had submitted a report after examining the changes in the land form after DLF’s reclamation of Chilavannur backwaters which is part of Vembanad lake in Kochi. Since 1996, the pattern of land form change was examined and it was clear that DLF had constructed its luxury flats acquiring 5.16 acres after reclamation of 90 per cent of the water body and its bank, KSCZMA members said.
Credits ET Realty