Doubts over ownership of nearly 180 flats in Kochi

A view of Alfa Serene Apartments at Marad built on the coastal zone, in Kochi. (PTI photo)

Over 180 flats in five high-rises in Kochi that face Supreme Court’s demolition order for violating CRZ norms, have ownership issues, triggering suspicions of benami ownership.

While many flats were occupied by families who claimed to be the present owners, they don’t have ownership certificate issued by the local body. Many occupants claimed that they made payments to purchase the flats, but delayed the registration process.

Meanwhile, many flats remained shut even after as government was going ahead with demolition steps. There were allegations that many of the flats that were unopened could be owned by prominent persons as benami assets. However, authorities preferred to be tight-lipped on the matter.

Sub Collector Snehil Kumar Singh, who is in charge of executing the SC order to demolish the high-rises, told DH that about 180 to 190 flats had ownership issues. According to government records, many of these flats were owned by the builders. The total number of flats marked for demolition in the five water-front high-rises are 326, he said.

Massive undervaluation

Another issue that came to light was the massive undervaluation of the luxury flats to evade tax. Government sources said that even as many flat owners showed evidence of paying Rs 50 lakh and more to purchase the flats, in many cases, the value shown for registration was less than Rs 10 lakh.

Based on this, the flat owners might be eligible for compensation based according to the registered value only.

Chairperson of the local municipality (Maradu), T H Nadeera said that legal steps for undervaluation would be initiated against the flat owners.

She also said that encroachment of water bodies were also found at three apartments and hence the builders would attract action for encroachment too.

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