In a major blow to real estate company Supertech, the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday directed the demolition of its two 40-storey buildings in one of its housing projects in Noida. The apex court also observed that home buyers suffer the impact of "unholy nexus of builders and planners", when the latter breach their obligation to ensure compliance with building regulations, which is a violation of law.
A bench of justice DY Chandrachud and justice MR Shah says there was collusion between Noida authority and Supertech, while allowing construction of two towers in one of its projects in Noida. The bench said, Noida authority gave permission to Supertech to construct two additional 40-floor towers in violation of the rules and directed that demolition should be carried out within three months.
The bench noted that the residents who occupy constructed areas in a housing project are entitled to ventilation, light and air, and adherence to fire safety norms.
"The purpose of stipulating a minimum distance comprehends several concerns. These include safeguarding the privacy of occupants and their enjoyment of basic civic amenities including access to well-ventilated areas where air and light are not blocked by the presence of close towering constructions," said the bench, adding that the prescription of a minimum distance also has a bearing on fire safety.
"In the event of a fire, there is a danger that the flames would rapidly spread from one structure to adjoining ones," it added.
The apex court emphasised that there has been rampant increase in unauthorised constructions in urban areas, which resulted from collusion between the developers and urban planning authorities and added that such violation of rules should be dealt with in a strict manner.
Against the backdrop of several violations by the builder, the bench said that NOIDA chose to lend its support to it in clear defiance of the provisions of law.
"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 law," said justice Chandrachud, who authored the 140-page judgment on behalf of the bench.
The bench added: "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."
If violation of law were to be raised, the bench noted home buyers confront 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. As this case demonstrates, they are denied access to information and are victims of misinformation. Hence, the law must step in to protect their legitimate concerns," the SC added.
The apex court directed Supertech to refund all amounts to the buyers of the apartments in twin towers within two months with interest with 12%pa (per annum). The top court also directed the builder to pay a cost of Rs2 crore to the resident welfare association (RWA).
Earlier, this month the Supreme Court had slammed the Noida authority for its 'shocking exercise of power' in sanctioning two residential towers of real estate developer Supertech in a green area. The top court also pointed out that the authority blocked right to information requests from homebuyers about the building plans.
The SC had told the Noida Authority, "From the way you are arguing it appears that you are the promoter. You cannot be fighting against the homebuyers."
The apex court had further added that as a public authority, it has to take a neutral stand, but its conduct reeks of corruption from the eyes, ears and nose.
The top court verdict came on appeals by Supertech and Noida authority challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict on 11 April 2014, to demolish two towers, Apex and Ceyane, constructed, which were part of Supertech's Emerald Court project.