Supreme Court furious over demolition stay of Ernakulam by ‘fraud’
The Supreme Court on Friday threatened to initiate contempt proceedings against lawyers and petitioners who had obtained a stay on the demolition of illegal structures in Kerala’s Ernakulam district, ordered by one bench, by approaching another bench.
“That bench should not have entertained the petition at all,” an angry Justice Arun Mishra, heading a bench also comprising Justice Navin Sinha, told the counsel for the petitioners, accusing them of “fraud”.
The stay was granted on June 10 by a bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi.
On May 8, the bench of Justices Mishra and Sinha had ordered the demolition of several structures illegally constructed in the notified coastal regulation zone (CRZ) in Ernakulam.
The petitioners, claiming to represent the 400-odd owners of apartments ordered to be demolished, managed to get a stay on June 10 by filing an urgent application before the vacation bench of Justices Banerjee and Rastogi.
The bench granted an interim stay for six weeks after the petitioners pleaded that the authorities had not presented the proper facts of the matter before the bench headed by Justice Mishra. But it added the rider that once the reopened after the summer vacation, the regular bench of Justices Mishra and Sinha would take the final call.
When the matter came up for hearing on Friday, a furious Justice Mishra told the counsel for the petitioners: “…this is not done. I had specifically turned down the prayer for stay, yet you went to the other bench. Should we draw contempt proceedings against you? Ethics has gone to the dogs. We wonder what is happening in this court… three to four senior counsels are part of this fraud. Is money everything for you?”
Although the counsel tried to explain, the bench proceeded to dismiss the petition and restore its earlier order of May 8, reiterating that the illegal structures would be demolished.
On May 8, the court had directed demolition of all unauthorised constructions in the prohibited coastal regulatory zones on the shores of the backwaters in Ernakulam which support exceptionally large biological diversity and constitute one of the largest wetlands in India. The court said such illegal constructions were responsible for the devastation caused by the unprecedented floods witnessed in the state last year.
The order came on an appeal filed by the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA) challenging the judgment passed on November 11, 2016, by the high court restraining the KSCZMA from taking any steps for demolition of the illegal properties — mostly holiday resorts — built in violation of the CRZ 1991 regulations.
The apex court had noted that the area in which the respondents have carried out the construction is part of the tidally influenced water body and construction activities in these areas are strictly restricted.
“Uncontrolled construction activities in these areas would have devastating effects on the natural water flow that may ultimately result in severe natural calamities. The expert opinions suggest that the devastating floods faced by Uttarakhand in recent years and Tamil Nadu this year are the immediate result of uncontrolled construction activities on river shores and unscrupulous trespass into the natural path of backwaters.
“The Coastal Zone Management Plan has been prepared to check these types of activities and construction activities of all types in the notified areas. The High Court has ignored the significance of approved CZMP…” the court had said.