While Keralites across the state are in a festive mood, 346 families living in their apartments in Kochi's Maradu municipality area are facing the biggest threat of their life time – to vacate their houses within five days before they are razed to the ground.
In order to execute a Supreme Court ultimatum to demolish the apartments by September 20 for violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, the municipality has already served notices to the flat owners, who have decided to go on a hunger strike in a move to save their flats that were bought with their life savings.
The SC had ordered in May this year to raze four luxury high-rise apartments - Jains Coral Cove, Golden Kayaloram, H2O Holy Faith and Alfa Serene. In July, the apex court also dismissed the review pleas filed by the builders and in an ultimatum issued on September 6, the court ordered the government to demolish the apartments and file a compliance report by September 20.
As per the municipality notice, the residents will have to leave the premises by September 13, and if they fail to do so, it will be considered a violation of the SC order. According to the 1994 Municipal Act and other laws applicable to this case, the municipality secretary will initiate prosecution procedures against the violators.
The first notice was served to the Jains Coral Cove, which has 122 apartments. However, the residents closed the gates of the apartment to prevent the officials from entering the premises. Since the flat owners of Jains Coral Cove, Alfa Serene and H2O Holy Faith refused to accept the notice, the officials pasted them on the gates of the building and left. Although residents of Golden Kayaloram received the notice, they immediately gave a letter stating they will not accept this and would file a curative petition.
The curative petition is the last judicial corrective measure that can be pleaded for in any judgment or decision the apex court has passed.
Several flat owners have paid as much as Rs 65 lakh and above for a flat from their hard-earned money, while several occupants are well-known celebrities in Mollywood.
The CRZ rules prohibit the construction of a building within a certain distance from the coast, backwaters, river and lake beds. The four apartments, located on the backwaters of the Vembanad lake, violated the norms.
For the 346 homeowners, these violations translate into the loss of their life savings. The residents are, however, determined not to leave the building even if officials arrive to demolish the structures, they said.