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Monday, September 20, 2021

Why Supreme Court ordered two towers of Emerald Court to be demolished

SC also ordered Supertech Limited, the developer, to refund all the existing flat purchasers the amount invested along with an interest of 12% per annum within a period of two months.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: September 1, 2021 8:19:16 am
Residents welcome Supreme Court order, 9-year legal battle against construction endsSupertech has also been ordered to pay the RWA a cost of Rs two crores within one month by the Supreme Court. (Express photo)

Upholding a 2014 Allahabad High Court judgment on the demolition of the two towers of a housing project called Emerald Court, located in Noida Sector 93A, the Supreme Court Tuesday said the demolition has to be completed within three months and ordered Supertech Limited, the developer, to refund all the existing flat purchasers the amount invested along with an interest of 12% per annum within a period of two months.

Here’s why the two towers were ordered to be demolished.

What is the Emerald Court Project?

In November 2004, Noida had allotted a plot of land to Supertech in Sector 93A for development of a group housing society — Emerald Court. In June 2005, the building plan was sanctioned under New Okhla Industrial Development Area Building Regulations and Directions, 1986 for construction of fourteen towers, each with ten floors and a total height of 37 metres. In June 2006, an additional land area in the same plot of land was leased to Supertech under the same conditions.

Since the new regulations, the New Okhla Industrial Development Area Building Regulations and Directions 2006, were notified in December 2006, a revised plan was sanctioned for the project and two additional floors for the towers, two more towers and a shopping complex were approved. The authorities now permitted a total of 16 towers and one shopping complex. In April 2008, eight towers were completed and by September 2009, a total of 14 towers were completed.

What happened to the two new towers?

The first revised plan contemplated a green area in front of Tower 1 but Supertech started construction of the new towers there in July 2009 and that too prior to the grant of sanction from the authorities.

In November 2009, the Noida authorities sanctioned a second revised plan under which one of the new towers, sanctioned in 2006, was allowed to have 25 floors in place of 12 floors and the shopping complex, which was to have two floors, was replaced with another tower consisting 25 floors. The towers were planned to have a height of 73 metres. The total towers of the project now increased to 17. One of the new towers was to be constructed at a distance of nine metres from Tower 1 with a space-frame connecting them at the upper level.

In March 2010, a third revised plan was sanctioned by the authorities allowing Supertech to raise 41 floors as a part of the two new towers and also construct basements and open space for parking beneath them. Meanwhile, the 15th tower was completed in June 2012.

Why did the Emerald Court Owner Resident Welfare Association approach the High Court in December 2012?

The RWA sought quashing of the revised plan and also demolition of the two towers, alleging various violations and misrepresentations by the developer. It also sought setting aside the permission granted to link the towers through a space frame.

Supertech argued that the two towers were sanctioned in accordance with Noida Building Regulations 2006. The authorities in Noida told the court that the permission for connecting the towers was granted only after the design was approved by IIT-Roorkee.

Allowing the RWA’s petition and ordering demolition of the two towers, the High Court in 2014 held that the distance between the building blocks must be at least 16 metres under the NBR 2010 and Supertech in collusion with authorities obtained sanctions for the layout map in violation of the mandatory requirement.

The UP Fire Prevention and Fire Safety Act, 2005 has also been violated, the court had held. Supertech approached the Supreme Court in April 2014 against the High Court decision. In May 2014, a status quo was ordered and later, National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited was asked to examine the dispute.

What is the Supreme Court order?

Between 2016 and 2017, a number of persons were ordered to be returned a part of their investment on orders of the apex court.

Tuesday, the Supreme Court said the purpose of stipulating a minimum distance is a matter of public interest in planned development and the residents who occupy constructed areas in a housing project “are entitled to ventilation, light and air and adherence to fire safety norms.”

It rejected the argument that the new towers are a part of a building block along with T-1, T-2 and T3 and there was no necessity of maintaining the minimum distance. “If a developer is left with the unbridled discretion to define the content of the expression ‘building block’, this will defeat the purpose of prescribing minimum distances, leaving the health, safety and quality of life of flat buyers at the mercy of developers,” said the court.

The court also said that the construction of the new towers reduced the value of the undivided interest held by the flat owners in the common areas and facilities. The same was held to be violative of Section 5 of the UP 1975 Act and Section 5 of the UP Apartments Act 2010 as the flat owners’ consent was not sought before modifying the plan initially promised to them.

As per the apex court order, the work of demolition has to be carried out by Supertech under supervision of government authorities in Noida and in consultation with Central Building Research Institute Roorkee. Supertech has also been ordered to pay the RWA a cost of Rs two crores within one month.

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