Despite Attorney General (AG) G E Vahanvati’s legal opinion to Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte that the Supreme Court judgment dated December 17, 2013, will halt almost all development projects in Mumbai and its suburbs, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is unlikely to file a review petition.
Contending that it is not adversely affected by the order itself, the BMC has placed the onus of seeking a review of the order on the state government and various associations of builders or developers.
Responding to a request for opinion the civic body had sent to the AG on the New Year’s eve, Vahanvati stated in his confidential letter to the civic chief that the SC judgment would make redevelopment in Mumbai virtually impossible, and moreover, it would be difficult to implement. The AG recommended “immediate filing of a review petition in the first instance and thereafter, if necessary, a curative petition”.
The AG said it was “absolutely necessary” that detailed facts were brought on record to show the “huge impact” of this judgment with regards to Development Control Regulations sections 33(7), (8), (9) and (10), which relate to redevelopment of cessed buildings, slum rehabilitation and cluster redevelopment.
However, the BMC has decided to play it safe.”We are following the state’s Urban Development (UD) department’s circular of February 10. Since the state government has directed us, it is up to them to finally take a decision on the review petition. We are not adversely affected by the order in any way. The SC has in fact interpreted the DCR for us. In this case, the aggrieved parties, that is, the associations of builders and developers, can file the review petition if they want,” a senior civic official said.
Civic officials close to the municipal commissioner said a detailed note on affected projects had also not yet been prepared. In fact, distancing itself from Vahanvati’s letter, which went as far as to observe that “town planning and regulations are a matter for experts”, civic officials said the BMC had sought the AG’s legal opinion only to “clearly understand” the court order and its legal implications.
The SC, in its ruling, had categorically stated that the prescribed minimum ground-level open spaces around a building could not be reduced and replicated on an open-to-sky podium (which henceforth would only be considered as additional to ground-level open space). Thus, developers will have to mandatorily set aside at least 15-25 per cent of the plot size at the ground level towards open recreational spaces. The SC further said developers would have to maintain at least six metres of open space on a plot to enable firefighting.
Prior to the judgment, based on which the state urban development (UD) department subsequently issued a direction to the civic body continued…