Day after the Supreme Court ordered the demolition of the 40-storey twin towers being constructed in Noida’s Sector 93A, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday directed to take strict action against Noida Authority officials involved with the construction of the twin towers. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered the demolition of Supertech Ltd’s twin 40-storey towers under construction in Noida, within three months for violation of building norms in “collusion” with district officials, holding that illegal construction has to be dealt with strictly to ensure compliance with the rule of law.
The NOIDA authority received a nap on its knuckles as the top court pointed out multiple incidents of collusion of its officials with Supertech Ltd in the Emerald Court project and violations of norms by the realty major in the construction of the twin towers.
The top court also directed that the entire amount of home buyers be refunded with 12 per cent interest from the time of the booking and the Residents Welfare Association(RWA) of Emerald Court be paid Rs 2 crore for the harassment caused due to the construction of the twin towers, which would have blocked sunlight and fresh air to the existing residents of the housing project in Sector 93A of Noida adjoining the national capital.
“The record of this case is replete with instances which highlight the collusion between the officers of NOIDA with the appellant and its management,” said a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and M R Shah in its 140-page verdict, upholding the April 11, 2014 demolition order of the Allahabad High Court.
The top court said it is also affirming the order of the High Court for sanctioning prosecution under provisions of Uttar Pradesh Urban Development Act and Industrial Area Development Act, against the officials of the Supertech Ltd and the officers of NOIDA for violations of the provisions of laws.
“The order passed by the High Court for the demolition of Apex and Ceyane (T-16 and T-17) does not warrant interference and the direction for demolition issued by the High Court is affirmed.”
The top court noted that the two towers together have 915 apartments and 21 shops.
According to Supertech, of the 633 people who booked the flats initially, 133 have moved out to other projects, 248 have taken refunds and 252 home buyers still have bookings with the company in the project.
The demolition exercise of the twin towers should be carried out within three months under the supervision of the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA) and an expert agency and the cost of the entire exercise has to be borne by Supertech Ltd, the court said in an order that was welcomed by the RWA after a nine-year-long legal battle against the builder.
The court said that a breach by the planning authority of its obligation to ensure compliance with building regulations is actionable at the instance of residents whose rights are infringed by the violation of the law.
“Their quality of life is directly affected by the failure of the planning authority to enforce compliance.”
Supertech case: What followed the Supreme Court verdict
While Supertech Managing Director Mohit Arora said the company will file a review petition in the Supreme Court, the Noida authority said it will ensure full compliance with the Supreme Court’s demolition order.
NOIDA’s Chief Executive Officer(CEO) Ritu Maheshwari said the authority will also ensure action against the department’s officials who are found guilty of violating rules in the Supertech case. The senior IAS officer, who joined the Noida Authority as its CEO in July 2019, said the violations occurred between 2004 and 2012.
The top court said that the Noida authority made no effort to ensure compliance of the UP Apartments Act 2010, as a result of which the rights of the flat purchasers have been “brazenly violated”.
“This cannot point to any conclusion, other than the collusion between NOIDA and the appellant to avoid complying with the provisions of the applicable statutes and regulations for monetary gain, at the cost of the rights of the flat purchasers”, it said, adding, “Hence, illegal construction has to be dealt with strictly to ensure compliance with the rule of law”.
It said that the judgments of this Court spanning in the last four decades emphasize the duty of planning bodies while sanctioning building plans and enforcing building regulations and bye-laws to conform to the norms by which they are governed.
“Unfortunately, the diverse and unseen group of flat buyers suffers the impact of the unholy nexus between builders and planners. Their quality of life is affected the most. Yet, confronted with the economic might of developers and the might of legal authority wielded by planning bodies, the few who raise their voices have to pursue a long and expensive battle for rights with little certainty of outcomes”, the court added.
“As this case demonstrates, they (home buyers) are denied access to information and are victims of misinformation. Hence, the law must step in to protect their legitimate concerns.”
Supertech case: What residents say
In 2012, the RWA had first taken up its battle against the builder to the Allahabad High Court, which had ordered the demolition of the under-construction twin towers on April 11, 2014, while upholding the rights of residents.
The builder, just after a month approached the top court, which directed a status quo on the demolition and creation of third-party rights.
Residents of the housing project said truth has prevailed and that their faith in the apex court has grown stronger.
According to the RWA, the housing project has 660 flats across 15 towers but in 2009 work started on the two towers in violation of building by-laws but they were told the construction was part of a separate project.
“We, however, insisted on seeing drawings and approvals of the project which appeared to be huge and against rules stipulating a certain distance between two such structures. After several efforts, we got to see the drawings and were shocked after realising that we were being taken for a ride by the builder with brazen violation of rules,” former president SK Sharma of Emerald Court’s RWA said.
“Truth has prevailed and our faith in the Supreme Court has grown stronger. We had knocked all other doors over the years as we went against the influential builder,” the 74-year-old Sharma said.
Rachana Jain, another resident of Emerald Court, said the top court’s order has come as a victory for all residents who stood against wrong being done.
The top court said that in order to ensure that the work of demolition is carried out in a safe manner without affecting the existing pleadings, NOIDA shall consult its own experts and experts from Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) Roorkee.
The court said that NOIDA’s referral of RWA’s request to access the sanctioned plans to the appellant (Supertech Ltd) to seek its consent and upon the refusal of the latter, a continuous failure to disclose them to the RWA is one instance of collusion between its officials and the realty major.
The court added that even when the Chief Fire Officer addressed a communication to NOIDA in regard to the violation of the minimum distance requirements in Emerald Court; it evinced no response and no investigation from the authority.
It said the High Court has dealt with the collusion between the officials of NOIDA and Supertech Ltd.
“This is writ large from the facts as they have emerged before this Court as well. The High Court has in these circumstances correctly come to the conclusion that there was collusion between the developer and the planning authority”.