J. Venkatesan

On demolition of 44 houses built for tsunami victims

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday extended its ‘status quo’ order on demolition of 44 houses constructed for tsunami victims at Uzhavar nagar, north Poigainallur in Nagapattinam. On February 22, the court ordered ‘status quo’ during mention time.

While extending the order, a Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran, after hearing senior counsel L.N. Rao and counsel Anand Padmanabhan, issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government and other respondents on special leave petitions filed by Salvation Agency, the builder, and most of the occupants of these houses.

In their SLPs, the petitioners submitted that on a petition from A. Subbian that the houses were of sub-standard construction, the Madras High Court had directed demolition of the 44 houses by its judgment dated January 10. Assailing the verdict they said no opportunity was given to them before such a direction was given.

They pointed out that the authorities had inspected the houses and issued occupancy certificates prior to the filing of the petition in the High Court. They annexed a report submitted by Shelter Advisory Group, set up by the High Court, stating that “instead of demolishing them, these houses could be retrofitted with specialised intervention and made safe as per the requirements.”

Referring to the District Collector’s report recommending demolition, they said that it was a one-sided report as no opportunity was given to them. Irreparable damage would be caused if the High Court direction to pull down the houses and hand over the site to the authorities was carried out, they said and prayed for quashing of the impugned judgment and an interim stay of its operation.