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SC uphelds Kerala HC order imposing Rs 1 crore fine on DLF

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the Kerala High Court order imposing a fine of Rs 1 crore on real estatemajor DLF for constructing around 180 luxury flats along the banks of eco-sensitive Chilavannur backwaters near Kochi in Kerala. A bench comprising Justices R F Nariman and S K Kaul, however, set aside the findings of the high court on the leaglity of the structures built by the real estate firm. "In conclusion, we set aside the findings of the impugned order while sustaining the fine of Rs 1 crore with the direction for strict adherence to the norms in future and avoidance of such contradictions by the authorities. "We also feel it appropriate that in view of the professed policy to have more single window clearance, the methodology of such processing of such applications should be endeavoured to be simplified so that there is less uncertainty and better enforcement," the bench said. Initially, a single judge bench of the high court found irregularities and violation of various norms, required to be adhered for construction in Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and ordered demolition of the construction. The division bench upheld the finding with regard to the irregularities in construction of the building, but saved the structure from the demolition. The larger bench directed its regularisation subject to payment of fine of Rs 1 crore which was to be used exclusively for building up the environment, maintaining ecological balance in the area situated on the eastern side of the Chilavannur river. The top court in its verdict said that "the battle of environment protection against development is a never ending one and the present dispute primarily is an offshoot of such a conflict. "The dispute between the developers of a housing project and the environment authorities is also one where different authorities have taken variant stands". The bench said it was not in agreement with the findings of the courts below on the violations alleged against DLF, except to the extent that there is a question mark on the issue of not having obtained prior clearance and proceeding on the basis of a deemed clearance. "We feel that the direction contained in the impugned order to deposit Rs 1 crore (stated to be already deposited) can be treated as a fine for the said purpose," the bench said. The Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority had moved the top court challenging the Kerala high court's decision permitting DLF to go ahead with its housing project.

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