A Supreme Court bench on Friday expressed strong displeasure over another bench of the court staying action ordered by it against apartment complexes built in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms in Kochi.The bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha said the petitioners and their counsel had “suppressed facts” and committed “fraud” to secure the relief. “We have serious objection about this… this cannot be allowed to happen… heights of judicial impropriety… That bench should not have passed any order. We are saying this with full responsibility,” Justice Mishra said as soon as senior counsel Kalyan Banerjee, who was representing the apartment owners, stood up to present his case.
On May 8, the bench of Justices Mishra and Sinha had ordered the demolition of five apartment complexes — with over 300 units — in Maradu municipality area of Kochi for flouting CRZ guidelines. The court directed that the structures should be demolished within a month.
The Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority later approached the court — which was on summer vacation — with an application seeking extension of time for carrying out the demolition. A vacation bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M R Shah rejected the plea on May 21.
Later, groups of flat owners approached the court with fresh petitions saying that they had not been heard by a committee which drew up the report on the alleged violations.
Hearing these petitions on June 10, another vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi said judicial propriety demands that the petitions be heard by the same bench which ordered the demolition. However, this bench also ordered a stay on the demolition till further orders.
“We rejected the petition. Then you went to another bench and suppressed facts to get a different order… You are making court commit judicial impropriety… This is absolute fraud,” Justice Mishra said. Turning to Banerjee, Justice Mishra said: “You are a senior counsel. You are an MP. If we say something against you, it will appear in the papers.”
Banerjee, who is a TMC member of the Lok Sabha, replied that he was not aware of what had happened before.
“You may not be aware. But some other senior counsel was appearing earlier. They are changing counsel for every hearing because they know what fraud was played on the court. They think they can escape by doing so… Two or three senior counsel are also part of this fraud. Is there no ethics left? Is money all that matters for you? Senior counsel should refuse to appear in such matters,” said Justice Mishra.
He said the petitioners had apparently roped in Banerjee in the hope that he would be swayed.
Justice Mishra said this was happening in many cases. “Some government officials also think they can play with the Supreme Court… I will punish them… You are playing fraud with the Supreme Court,” he said.
Saying that Justice Sinha was asking him to calm down, Justice Mishra said how could he be silent when he saw what was going on.
Banerjee then pleaded with the court to permit him to withdraw the petition. The court allowed him to do so but warned that it would initiate contempt action if anyone went to any other court to seek relief in the matter.