COASTAL REGULATION ZONE VIOLATIONS IN KERALA
– ATIKA CHATURVEDI
II Year Student, National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi
What has been in dispute for years, finally reached a conclusion. Albeit a bit astonishing, the Supreme Court ordered the demolition of the 4 high-rise buildings located in Maradu, Kerala. The events leading to the judgment in the case of the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority v. The State of Kerala Maradu Municipality and Anrs. are just as important as the very judgment.
The issue in question started back in 2006, when Maradu Panchayat granted permission for construction of waterfront apartment, facing the scenic backwaters of Kochi. However, the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority challenged the permit given to the builders, as a result of which the Madaru Grama Panchayat issued notices, cancelling the permits of the builders, citing Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms violation amongst others. The question posed in this issue was whether the area fell within CRZ-III according to the 1991 notification. In retaliation, the builders moved the High Court against this notice. The High Court ruled in favour of the builders, and stayed the notice. Thus, the construction continued.
In 2012, allowing the writ petition of builders, Single Bench of the High Court of Kerala held that the Government had no authority to direct the Panchayat. This was later affirmed by the Division Bench of the High Court.
Another significant event in this case happened when the Kerala High Court decided against Kerala State Coastal Management Authority, in 2016. Dissenting with the High Court’s decision, Kerala State Coastal Management Authority appealed in the Supreme Court, by the way of Special Leave Petition. Consequently, a three member committee was constituted by the Supreme Court to ascertain whether the area in conflict did fall within CRZ-III, as laid down in the 1991 notification.
Adhering to the findings of the committee, the bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Sinha ordered the demolition of the buildings within a month. Further petitions concerning the matter in hand were dismissed by the Court.
Furthermore, taking suo moto notice of non-compliance of demolition orders, the Supreme Court set a deadline for demolition. Also, a committee was constituted by the Court to look into the matters involving compensation for the residents.
This case was imperative as it paved way for identifying the projects which violated CRZ norms. Following a similar chain of events, the Supreme Court in Vaamika Island v. Union of India and Kapico Kerala Resorts Pvt. Ltd. v. State of Kerala and Others, ordered demolition of resorts, which were constructed in two backwater island.
The Case also led to the establishment of Coastal District Committees, constituted by the Government, which aimed to recognize the various CRZ norms violations taking place in the State. It is also imperative to point out that in January 2020, the committees detected 26,000 CRZ violations, spread out in 10 Coastal Districts.
Thus, what started off as a mere dispute concerning a permit, brought to light the numerous illegal constructions erected in costal districts. Coastal Regulation Zone was an initiative to regulate the development of costal area in consonance with the tidal fluctuations. In order to achieve that coastal sections within 500 metres of High Tide Line on the landward side are categorized into four zones. The First Category or CRZ-I comprises of the highly eco-sensitive area. It includes national parks, reserve forests, marine parks and so on. The second type in this category or CRZ-II extends to the already developed areas. These are the regions of maximum development and includes coastal cities. The third category, and the one the cases are concerned with, are the areas that are left relatively undisturbed. These include coastal zones in rural areas and also areas in urban regions that are not substantially developed. Lastly, CRZ-IV is concerned with stretches of land in Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep and other islands excluded in the other zones.
Area demarcated as CRZ-III extends upto 200 metres from the High Tide Line. This area has been designated to be “No Development Zone”. Barring the repair work of existing authorized structures, no constructions can be allowed to take place in such regions. Under Section 6 of the CRZ Notification, there is the constitution of a District Level Coastal Committee, which overlooks and monitors the execution and following of the CRZ rules. The Pollution Control Board, is a member of this DLCC. Therefore, in cases of violations, it is the DLCC which has to take cognizance and action in the first place.
These violations not only hamper the natural flow of water bodies, but also put countless lives at risk. Taking these elements into considerations, the Supreme Court aptly rendered the judgment in the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority v. The State of Kerala Maradu Municipality and Anrs.
 SLP (c) Nos 4784-85 of 2019.
The area upto 200 metres from the High Tide Line is to be earmarked as ‘No Development Zone’ [provided that such area does not fall within any notified port limits or any notified Special Economic Zone]. No construction shall be permitted within this zone except for repairs of existing authorised structures not exceeding existing FSI, existing plinth area and existing density, and for permissible activities under the notification including facilities essential for such activities.
 SLP (c) Nos. 24390-91 of 2013.
 SLP (c) No. 21927 of 2014.
 Clause 6(1), Annexure-I, The Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 1991.
 SLP (c) Nos 4784-85 of 2019.