In a setback to Supertech Ltd, the Supreme Court Tuesday directed demolition of twin 40-story towers of the realty major’s Emerald Court project in NOIDA for violation of building by-laws “in collusion” with the authority officials.
Both the towers – Apex and Ceyane – were under construction when the Allahabad High Court had ordered their demolition. After Supertech Ltd approached the apex court against the high court order, a status quo was ordered.
The top court said the case record is replete with instances that highlight the collusion between officers of NOIDA with Supertech Ltd and its management and involvement of the planning authority with the developer in violation of laws.
The apex court directed that the entire amount of home buyers be refunded with 12 percent interest from the time of the booking and the Residents Welfare Association be paid Rs 2 crore for the harassment caused due to the construction of the twin towers.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said the April 11, 2014 high court verdict which directed demolition of the twin towers, does not deserve any interference.
It said the construction of Supertech’s twin 40 story towers having 915 flats and shops was done in collusion with NOIDA authority and the high court was correct in holding that view.
The bench said that the demolition exercise of the twin towers be carried out within three months under the supervision of NOIDA and an expert agency and the cost of the entire exercise has to be borne by Supertech Ltd.
The top court said that recently it has seen rampant unauthorized construction in metropolitan areas in collusion with planning authorities and it has to be dealt with sternly.
The top court said the complicity of NOIDA is revealed from the following — the sanctioning of second revised plan of the project on November 26, 2009 in clear breach of building regulations, the refusal of NOIDA to disclose the plan to the Resident Welfare Association, NOIDA writing to the Supertech seeking permission to share the sanctioned plan with RWA and on refusal by the builder, declining to share the plan.
It said that when the Chief Fire Officer wrote to NOIDA about the violation of the minimum distance requirement in between the two towers, no action was taken by the planning authorities.
The high court had dealt with the collusion of NOIDA with the builder which emerged writ large from facts before the court, the bench said, adding that it had correctly came to the conclusion that there was collusion between the planning authority and the developer.
“The rampant increase in unauthorized constructions across urban areas, particularly in metropolitan cities has been noticed in several decisions of this court and this takes place in collusion between planning authorities and the developers,” the bench said.
It added that from commencement to completion the process of construction is regulated within the framework of law and encompasses all stages of construction including allocation of land, sanctioning of the plan for construction, structural integrity, obtaining clearances from different departments, and issuances of completion and occupation certificates.
“The availability of housing stocks, especially in metropolitan cities, is necessary to accommodate the large influx of people but it has to be balanced with crucial considerations like the protection of the environment and the wellbeing and safety of those who occupy these constructions,” the bench said.
The regulation of the entire process is intended to ensure that construction, which has a negative environmental impact, is not sanctioned and hence these regulations are brazenly violated by the developers, it added.
“More often the connivance of the regulatory authorities with the developers’ strikes at the very core of urban planning, thereby increasing harm to the environment and dilution of safety standards,” it said.
Hence, illegal constructions are to be dealt with strictly to ensure compliance with the rule of law, the top court said, adding that the judgments of this court spanning the last four decades have emphasized the role of planning bodies while sanctioning building plans and enforcing building regulations and by-laws and to conform to the laws, which they are governed.
“A breach by the planning authorities of its obligation to ensure compliance with building regulations is actionable at the instance of residents, whose rights are invaded by the violation of law,” it said.
The top court pointed out that the quality of life is directly affected by the failure of the planning authority to ensure proper compliance and unfortunately, the diverse group of flat buyers suffers due to the unholy nexus of builders and planners.
“Yet confronted by the economic might of the developers and the might of legal authority wielded by the planning bodies, they continue to raise their voices and pursue long and expensive battles for rights with no certainty of outcome,” it said.
Referring to Supertech’s case, the bench said that as in this case the home buyers were denied access to information and are victims of misinformation, hence the law must protect their legitimate concerns.
The two towers, Apex and Ceyane of Emerald Court Project of Supertech situated in sector 93, together have 915 apartments and 21 shops. Of these, 633 flats were booked initially.
The builder had said that out of 633 people booking the flats initially, 133 have moved out to other projects, 248 have taken refunds and 252 home buyers still had their bookings with the company in the project.