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HOW TO MURDER JUSTICE…LEGALLY-PART 2

P M Ravindran; raviforjustice@gmail.com

Let me put it straight- the apex court verdict in the matter of demolition of 5 apartment
complexes at Maradu, Kochi is literally a legal murder of justice.

I do not know if ever in the history of any court a verdict has been announced without
hearing the most affected parties. In this case the flat owners.

As a layman, the following facts are deducted from the media reports:
- The Marad Panchayat had cleared the construction of the apartments either due to the
ambiguity in the law or due to the ever present corruption.
- There was definite failure of the government administration in communicating judicial
observations/orders down the line, particularly to those who are required to act on
them
- The notorious delays in our judiciary have also played havoc in this case. The Kerala High
Court had observed, around 2005-6, that the coastal zone mapping of Marad was wrong
and, subsequently, the apex court had viewed the same as ambiguous. But it is only in
2019 that the apex court constituted committee to bring clarity on the issue. This
committee, headed by the District Collector (who should have been one of the accused
for his failure to detect the violations in the first place and prevent construction) had
reported that when the permission was given in 2006-6 what was applicable was the
Coastal Zone Management Plan approved in 1996. But it had failed to report that in
2011 the categorization had been reviewed but notified in 2019, shortly before
submission of their report.
- The frenzy with which the implementation of the order has been sought to be executed
is also a matter of concern. As per the report in Times of India dated 9/5/2019, the state
government, on the basis of vigilance reports about violation of CRZ norms, had asked
the Maradu municipality to revoke all building permits. The municipality issued
showcause notices to the builders, one of whom challenged it in the Kerala high court. In
2012, a single-judge bench quashed the municipality’s notices to the builders on the
ground that the state had no power to issue directions to local bodies to act in a certain
manner. A division bench of the HC upheld this decision in 2015. The matter has been
pending in the SC since December 2015 on an appeal filed by KSCZMA, the authority. It
is apparently this appeal that has been now taken up and the buildings ordered to be
demolished within one month.
- Worse, the apex court had passed this order without hearing the most affected
parties- the owners of the flats. This is evident from the Indian Express report, dated 6
Jul 2019, titled ‘SC judge hits out at stay on demolition in Kochi by another bench’. As
per this report a vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi had, on 10
Jun 2019, stayed the demolition till further orders even while maintaining that judicial
propriety demanded that the petitions be heard by the same bench which ordered the
demolition.
- A statement by Arun Mishra, the senior judge of the bench that ordered the demolition
-I am surprised that an apex court judge has stayed an order without knowing that such
an order existed- should make every citizens interested in rule of the law to ask ‘what is
happening in our apex courts?’
- There is merit in the assertion by C M Varghese of Maradu Bhavana Samrakshana
Samithi that they were denied natural justice by the apex court because of the order
being passed without hearing their side.
- It was only on the court hauling up the Chief Secretary of the State that the bureaucracy
starting moving. And the way they started moving is there for all to see. Issuing notices
to vacate the flats within 5 days, cutting off electricity and water, inviting bids to
demolish the flats. Wow! Unheard of efficiency in persecuting innocents!
- It is amidst all this torture that the apex court started thinking of justice for the victims.
But again its decisions cannot be said to be exactly judicious.
- All flat owners are now required to be paid an interim compensation of Rs 25 lakhs each
by the Government of Kerala. Since the flats have distinct floor areas and facilities which
dictate their prices the irrationality of the direction is at once striking. Worse, the Kerala
Government has not yet paid compensation to the thousands who have lost their
belongings including homes during the floods of 2018. The roads in Kerala are in
shambles. All because the government is practically bankrupt. So where will the money
come from? (Following the footsteps of the apex court, the Kerala High Court has now
ordered the State Government to pay compensation to the flood affected within 2
weeks!)
- This money is directed to be recovered from the developers and public servants who
have connived in breaking rules. But when? And how? Given the snail’s pace of our
court processes and the lethargy of our public servants it is very unlikely that this money
will be recovered at all, in the predictable future.
- The court has also ordered freezing of accounts of the developers. With CBI and ED
trying their best we still continue to get updates of the bank accounts and properties of
P Chidambaram and his son, which seems to be spread all over the world. The latest
report on the subject is that two developers have approached the court to cancel the
freeze.
- A single judge commission has been constituted to go into the claims of compensation.
This has to be done within one year.
- I would even question the need to demolish the flats at considerable cost to the
exchequer (even if theoretically, or legally, it can be recovered from the developers).
To one who is used to thinking rationally the following would have been the correct steps to
have been followed by the court(s).
- First bring the public servants, who have flouted the laws (the original sinners!) and the
developers to book. They should be punished exemplarily so that no one hence forth
dares to bend or break rules. Even if all their wealth is confiscated and they have to
spent the rest of their lives behind bars and their families have to beg on the streets, so
be it.
- From the recoveries so made, the compensation to be paid to the flat owners, based on
(I repeat based on and not equal to) the value shown in the registration documents. The
fact is that most of the flats have been undervalued in these documents to reduce the
burden of fees.
- Flat owners be given reasonable time, say one year, from the date of receipt of
compensation, to vacate.
- Thereafter the flats should be left to self destruct with nature taking over. As per reports
available now even the locals will be ordered to shift to safer places when the
demolition process is carried out!
Lastly, it should be mentioned that there are gross abuses of nature that are making life
miserable for the population of Kerala. Some of these are listed below.
- The failure to implement the Gadgil Committee Report on conservation of Western
Ghats. Talking about this report, it has to be said that only in India can a report on
ecology, prepared by an environmentalist, be allowed to be reviewed by a space
scientist and diluted so much so that it results in the subversion of the whole effort.
- Almost all fresh water bodies are polluted in Kerala. A study of water samples from
Bharathapuzha, the second longest river in Kerala, has shown that e coli contamination
is almost 700 times the permissible levels.
- The longest river, Periyar, is totally polluted by the industries on its banks. Of interest is
the case of a factory Nita Gelatin against whom the locals have protested many times.
Unfortunately, the courts have only directed the police to provide protection to the
factory.
- The Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages company in Plachimada has not only exploited the
underground water resources of the area but also contaminated all the fresh water
sources as well as land by selling its heavy metal contaminated waste as manure to the
innocent locals who are mostly tribals. A case against the now closed factory is pending
in the apex court for more than a decade now. Meanwhile, a High Power Committee,
constituted in 2009, had assessed the compensation due to the locals to be about Rs
230 cr. This has also not made any headway as far as implementation is concerned.
- Right from the southern tip to the north there are plenty of protests in Kerala against
sand mining in rivers, deforestation, razing hillocks and filling of agricultural lands. And
there are many cases covering these very issues, pending with various authorities,
including the courts. If there is any action being taken on them, they are, sadly, not
visible to the citizens.

Our judiciary is a failure on account of preposterous delays. That it is a failure from the
point of view that ‘justice should not only be done but seen to be done’ may not be known
to many except those who have been victims of unfair judgments and to critics of judicial
conduct and performance.

I only hope that the victims of Marad flats demolition judgment would not give in to despair
and commit the worst crimes on themselves. They need to join the crusaders demanding
comprehensive and urgent judicial reforms that would make our judiciary not only
transparent and just but also accountable and effective.

Tailpiece: There is a controversy on a carshed for metro rail to be constructed at Aarey


Colony which is contiguous to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai. The CM of
Maharashtra is on record saying that all due diligence have been given to the issue before
deciding on the site. Petitions by environmentalists and locals against felling of trees had
been dismissed by the high court as well as the apex court. Now an LLB student has
reportedly written to the CJI on the issue and the CJI has accepted it as a suo moto PIL.

Further reading:
‘SC orders 5 Kochi bldgs with 500 flats razed for CRZ breach’ at
https://epaper.timesgroup.com/olive/apa/timesofindia/Print.Article.aspx?mode=text&href
=TOIM%2F2019%2F05%2F09&id=Ar00107
‘SC judge hits out at stay on demolition in Kochi by another bench’ and dated 6 Jul 2019
available at https://indianexpress.com/article/india/sc-judge-hits-out-at-stay-on-
demolition-in-kochi-by-another-bench-5817838/
https://indianexpress.com/article/india/life-savings-put-in-flats-ordered-razed-these-kochi-
residents-have-nowhere-to-go-5827203/
Deccan Chronicle report titled ‘Flat owners say justice denied’ date lined 29 Jul 2019 at
Kochi
Former Chairperson of Marad Municipality Sunila Sibi, on Sep 11, 2019, at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7sSb7zQQLo (This is in Malayalam)
‘Under SC sledgehammer, Maradu flat owners have no option but to move out’, IE, 06 Oct
2019 at https://indianexpress.com/article/india/kochi-apartments-demolition-maradu-
residents-kerala-sc-order-6055477/

https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/aarey-tree-felling-sc-takes-suo-motu-cognizance-
148774

‘50 flats in Marad whose ownership details are not available’, Janmabhumi (Malayalam),
05/10/2019

09 Oct 2019