Builders have ganged up to request the Maharashtra government to issue an ordinance to neutralise the impact of a Supreme Court (SC) order which requires that they provide more open space around buildings. A SC bench recently directed the civic body in Mumbai to make it mandatory for buildings to keep 15%-25% of the plot open to sky at the ground level and to keep at least 6mtrs (metres) space around the building (compared to 1.5mtrs previously) to allow the fire brigade to manoeuvre its vehicles, in an emergency.
In December 2013, the civic body issued a circular to this effect and developers are worried that these requirements would stall a large number of projects already in the pipeline. Builders are notorious for surreptitiously using up the open space that has to be reserved, under various regulations.
The SC observed that ground level gardens are necessary because of “excessive concretisation and the significant reduction in open/green spaces” and that “a healthy environment is within the ambit of the right to life.” Environment activists insist that the order should be followed in letter and spirit. However, builders say this cannot be implemented.
Residents of Planet Godrej, a nine-acre gated enclave at Saat Rasta, Central Mumbai, have dragged the developers, Simplex Realty and Godrej Properties, to court for failing to convey the plot to them. The plaintiffs, comprising three of the five housing societies, said their agreement stipulated that the developer will convey the land to the societies within four months of completion of the project.
The Maharashtra Ownership of Flats Act (MOFA) states that the builder must convey the right, title and interest of the land and buildings to the flat purchasers (housing society) within four months. Planet Godrej was completed four years ago; yet, the conveyance has not been done.
Providing relief to property taxpayers, the Bombay High Court, in an interim order, has directed some property owners to go by the old regime and to pay 25% of the differential amount.
A bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice
MS Sanklecha, in October 2013, admitted a petition filed by Atash Behrams, Agiaries and Religious Institutions Welfare Society which challenged the validity of the new property tax structure introduced earlier in the year. Under the new system, the tax is calculated on the basis of the capital value of a property, and the age of a building, its location and use are taken into account. Experts contested the new ‘flawed’ system that could push up the tax by 300% or more.
Bombay Hospital, a charitable institution, was the first to assail the hike in court, challenging the system and the Rs2-crore bill for 2010 to 2013. Several petitioners challenged the new property tax structure as ‘unconstitutional, exorbitant and confiscatory’.
On 23 December 2013, the HC directed the state, once again, to file its reply.