Supreme Court judge Justice Arun Mishra on Friday launched a stinging criticism against residents of illegal Maradu flats in Ernakulam, Kerala, for approaching another apex court Bench to get a stay of the demolition of their apartments on the sly.
On May 8, a Vacation Bench led by Justice Mishra ordered the flats, numbering over 400, to be demolished within a month. However, on June 10, residents approached another Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Indira Banerjee to get a stay. They complained that they were not heard by Justice Mishra’s Bench before the demolition order was passed.
A livid Justice Mishra called the act of the residents to pit the order of one Bench against another as an “absolute fraud” committed on the court. “The plea for stay was turned down by me, yet you went to another Bench?” Justice Mishra asked the residents’ lawyers.
‘Ethics have gone to the dogs’
The judge threatened contempt even against the lawyers involved. Finally, the residents withdrew their plea.
“Should we draw contempt against you? Ethics have gone to the dogs… What is happening in this court? Three to four senior counsel are part of this fraud. You should have declined to appear. Is money everything for you?” Justice Mishra lashed out.
He hinted that a senior advocate from Kolkata was engaged by the parties to probably sway him to give a favourable order.
On June 10, Justice Banerjee’s Bench put on hold the demolition of the buildings for six weeks after the residents pleaded that they were not even given an opportunity to be heard before the Supreme Court passed the order to raze the five apartment blocks at Maradu.
Assuring that the review plea would be heard in July first week, the Justice Banerjee Bench ordered status quo till then.
‘No proper hearing’
The main ground of review petitioners was that the SC-appointed three-member committee had not given them a proper hearing on the show cause notice pertaining to violations and therefore the demolition order violated their fundamental right.
This plea by house owners had immediately followed a petition by an affected builder alleging that the court was misled by the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) into passing the May 8 order.
The three-member panel’s report concluded that the buildings fell within the CRZ-III limits.
The committee stated that as per CRZ notification of 1991 and Kerala Coastal Zone Management Plan 1996, the area in question came under CRZ III. As per the CRZ notification 1991, no construction was permitted within 200 metres from the coastal line in CRZ III.
Holy Faith Builders, the affected company, however submitted that the KCZMA hid a vital fact from the Supreme Court — that is, a more recent Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) prepared pursuant to a 2011 CRZ notification was approved by Ministry of Environment and Forests on February 28, 2019 by which Maradu area of Ernakulam was categorised under CRZ-II.
“The apartment owners were not heard by the committee despite the direction of this court to hear all affected parties. All the 91 units in the petitioner’s (Holy Faith Builders) building have been sold. Thereafter, tax is being paid by them every year. The committee did not issue notice to the owners of the apartments who are residing there. They are the affected parties, if an adverse order is passed in the matter,” the builder submitted.
The May 8 judgment blamed the “devastating effects” of unbridled construction activities in eco-sensitive areas with natural water flow. It said illegal constructions on river shores and “unscrupulous trespass” into the natural path of backwaters had led to natural calamities like the recent floods in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Uttarakhand.