The Gujarat High Court Wednesday said that malls and multiplexes in Ahmedabad cannot levy parking fees, overturning an earlier order passed by a single judge bench of the HC.
The order was on a petition moved by AlphaOne mall, rena-med as AhmedabadOne, against the state government, Ahmed-abad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and police inspector of traffic division over parking fee.
The petitioner party argued that initially they had made parking available for free but people visiting other places also started using the mall to park their vehicles, denying parking space to the visitors of the mall, after which they decided to levy a parking fee of Rs10 for two-wheelers and Rs 20 for four-wheelers.
The court reasoned that General Development Control Regulations, 2017 (GDCR) framed under the provisions of the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976, and the Gujarat Nagarpalika Act, 1963, do not stipulate parking fee in malls and multiplexes. It is for the proprietors to provide parking, it said.
“We are of the view that there is no necessity to rationalise and regulate the parking policy and/or parking fee,” the court said and added, “…at the most, it can be said that the maintenance cost for the parking space, which is to be mandatorily provided as per GDCR, may be proportionately borne by the owner of the mall and occupant/owner of such shops, multiplexes, restaurants, etc., depending upon the nature of their contract, but by no stretch of imagination can it be said that the visitors of such shops, multiplexes, restaurants, etc. will have to be burdened with parking fee.”
In July 2018, traffic police inspector issued a notice informing mall owners that the collection of parking charges was violative of the GDCR and the Building Use (BU) Permission granted to them. Following this, the mall authorities approached the Gujarat High Court.
A single-judge bench of Justice Bela Trivedi in an October 2018 judgment quashed and set aside the police inspector’s notice to the mall proprietors and directed the state government to amend GDCR to include a parking policy in its ambit. Justice Trivedi, also capped the parking fee that the mall could levy.
“Till an appropriate decision is taken on the parking policy by the state government, commercial building owners/ managers shall provide free parking to all the visitors, at least for one hour of their entry, and thereafter may charge reasonable parking fees commensurable to the services provided by them… Such fees shall not be more than Rs 30 for four-wheelers and Rs10 for two-wheelers per day,” the court said.
The capped fee as well as the court’s direction to frame a policy on parking were challenged by the mall before a division bench of the Gujarat HC. However, the division bench of Acting Chief Justice Anant Dave and Justice Biren Vaishnav upheld the notice to multiplexes and malls by the police that was quashed earlier. The bench also notified mall owners that they can’t collect parking fee.
The division bench Wednesday noted that Justice Trivedi’s direction to the state government to amend GDCR to include parking policy provisions is “not permissible under Article 226 of the Constitution of India…”
The division bench also noted that it saw no substance in the petitioner’s arguments that providing free of charge parking will deprive the mall owners to use their property in accordance with law. The bench also clarified that the mall owners cannot equate their case for levying parking fees with that which is being charged by the AMC and its authorities for allowing parking in open plots owned by it.