Supreme Court upholds order against demolition of DLF’s housing project in Kochi

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld an order of the Kerala high court allowing real estate developer DLF Ltd to regularize its housing project built along the banks of the eco-sensitive Chilavannur backwaters, near Kochi.

DLF’s project costing over Rs300 crore comprises 180-odd luxury flats.

A bench comprising justices Rohinton F. Nariman and Sanjay Kishan Kaul did not agree with the findings of the Kerala high court on illegality of the structure, except to the extent of DLF not obtaining prior clearance and operating on a deemed clearance. Deposit of Rs1 crore by DLF that was imposed by the Kerala high court would serve as a fine for this purpose, it was held.

It was ordered that this amount be transferred from the local district administration to the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA) so that it could be used for better enforcement and development of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).

KSCZMA had appealed to the Supreme Court challenging the Kerala high court’s decision permitting DLF to go ahead with its housing project.

Shyam Divan, appearing for the state authority, had relied on Google images from February and December 2005 to suggest that there had been large scale reclamation. This was countered by Kapil Sibal, counsel for DLF by relying on a report of the Institute of Remote Sensing to explain that there was a large mass of stagnant water in the property of shallow depth with vegetation below the water visible. The water appears not to have any permanent link with the backwater of the Chilavannur canal, he said.

The Kerala high court had observed that the structure was illegal, but said that causing demolition would be more detrimental than causing it to be retained. It spared the demolition of the structure but ordered DLF to pay a fine of Rs1 crore to the local district administration. The money was to be used exclusively to maintain ecological balance in the area situated on the eastern side of Chilavannur river.

While allowing DLF to not demolish the structure, the court had also observed that the construction was not in CRZ – I (where construction is prohibited) but in CRZ–II (where construction is possible, subject to being regularized).

KSCZMA had submitted that in the context of regularization of unauthorized constructions, particularly those violating the laws and norms set up for protecting the environment around coastal areas, the apex court had taken an unequivocal and clear stand against erring real estate promoters and builders.

Article source: Kerala High Court

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