It is said that perseverance and patience are best friends. For a group of four Senior Citizens of Noida, who took upon a mighty real estate bigwig Supertech Group, for upholding their rights as existing residents, it was a long drawn legal battle.
Affirming the Allahabad High Court’s 2014 order to demolish the twin towers named “Apex” and “Ceyane” (T-16 and T-17) at the Emerald Court, for violating building by-laws, in its 31 August 2021 ruling, the Apex Court has ordered Supertech to bring down the two semi-constructed towers which together have 915 apartments and 21 shops in a safe manner within three months besides refund buyers within two months and pay to the Resident Welfare Association costs quantified at Rs 2 crore, with a month.
The Supertech Emerald Court Owner Resident Welfare Association had moved the Allahabad High Court in 2012 that the construction of the 40-storey twin towers was not in the original plan shown to them at the time of booking. Most importantly Supertech encroached upon the green common area of the housing society. The twin towers blocked their view, fresh air and sunlight.
According to media reports, what is more shocking is that when the Resident Welfare Association (RWA) asked the Noida Authority for the building plan, the latter wrote to Supertech asking whether to share it and at its behest refused to give them the plan. The RWA ultimately received the plan after the Allahabad High Court intervened.
The High Court, in its 11 April 2014 order held that the twin towers stood “too close to each other”, as against the minimum distance of 16 metres required under the Noida Building Regulations, 2010. Further, Supertech did not take the home buyers into confidence, before commencing construction of the twin towers, as mandated by the Uttar Pradesh Apartment Owners Act, 2010.
The High Court’s demolition order was challenged by Supertech as well the Noida Authority, in the Supreme Court by way of Special Leave Petition which was listed on 19 July 2016.
According to media reports, no sooner than the Apex Court affirmed the demolition of the twin towers, the Uttar Pradesh Government has constituted a special investigation team to investigate the irregularities involved in the construction of the twin towers which is expected to take strict action against the Noida Authority officials involved in the revision of the original plan. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) which has too initiated a probe against Supertech and its Chairman probably may also probe the Noida Authority which provided permission to construct the towers at Emerald Court.
In dealing with unauthorised and illegal building constructions, the Judiciary has been dealing with cases brought before it with utmost strictness. In S.T. Karunanithi vs The Principal Secretary, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court in its 29 July 2021 order observed that far too often the high and mighty in real estate flouted laws with political benevolence and incompetent court largesse to get away with almost murder. It further maintained that no leniency can be shown towards such illegal constructions. Only if a few such buildings are razed in public view that other plotters of similar authorised constructions would know what lies in store for them in future. Once it is evident that there is unauthorised construction, the law must take over. The law must prevail and its enforcement should be strict.
The Telangana High Court recently pulled up the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation for its “namesake” actions against unauthorised constructions and directed it to be diligent in performing its duties and show no sympathy in the demolition of illegal constructions. While ordering that “those who owned illegal constructions should be made to bear the expenses incurred by the civic body for such demolitions, as contemplated in law” the Court observed that “drilling small holes in the slabs will not do. Illegal constructions should be demolished wholesale and the drilling should come down to their foundations.” Ordering that those who owned illegal constructions should be made to bear the expenses incurred by the civic body for such demolitions, they should be video-graphed or photographed to show that the constructions have been fully brought down to the ground.
How to prevent unauthorised constructions? In Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai... vs M/S Sunbeam High Tech Developers, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court observed on 24 October 2019 that “If a structure is an illegal structure, even though it has been demolished illegally, such a structure should not be permitted to come up again. Directing the municipal authorities in all cities in Maharashtra with a population of 50 lakh or more to get Geomapping done both within municipal limits as well as 10 Km from the outer boundary using satellite, drones or vehicles the Court was of the view that when the entire city was geomapped, it would be easy to control illegal constructions.
It needs to be appreciated that illegal constructions that come up in violation of law must be demolished. There can be no sympathy towards those who violate law. At the same time, it is important that exemplary punishment is awarded to the guilty officials to send a strong warning message that corruption cannot be tolerated.