Setting aside the January 8 order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which had increased the compensation amount to be paid by M/s Goel Ganga Developers over the environmental damage caused by its real estate project in Vadgaon Budhruk to Rs 195 crore, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered the firm and its directors to pay compensation of Rs 105 crore within six months.
In its order, the bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Madan Lokur on Friday upheld the NGT’s order dated September 27, 2016, which had found that the construction by the developer was in violation of the environmental clearance granted to it on April 4, 2008, and had asked the firm to pay damages worth Rs 105 crore.
The petitioner, Tanaji Gambhire, had filed a review application in NGT, seeking an increase in the compensation amount. In January this year, the NGT had increased it to Rs 195 crore. The real estate developer had challenged the compensation amount hike in the Supreme Court.
Setting aside the Tribunal’s order, the SC stated, “The NGT order of January 2018 is held to be totally illegal and is set aside. We impose damages of Rs 100 crore or 10 per cent of the project cost, whichever is higher, on the developer and in addition, Rs 5 crore, as levied by the NGT in its order dated September 27, 2016”.
The developer has been granted six months’ time to deposit the amount. “In case the developer does not deposit the amount within six months, then all the assets of M/s Goel Ganga Developers India Pvt Ltd, as well as its directors, should be attached and the amount of damages should be recovered by sale of those assets,” stated the SC.
It further directed that in case the amount was not deposited within six months, the licence, registration or permission granted to Goel Ganga Developers India Pvt Ltd to develop any real estate project would be cancelled. The company and its directors would also not be granted permission to develop any real estate project without the permission of the court.
The court said while it was against legalising the illegal construction, it was the only option in the present case, considering the third party interest of the “innocents” who have already invested in the project. The bench stated that the developer would not be permitted to undertake construction of two proposed buildings, with 454 tenements, and will be only allowed to complete the construction of 807 flats, 117 shops/offices and a cultural centre. The Supreme Court said the developer would have to return the investors’ money, with 9 per cent per annum interest, to those who had invested in the 454 flats.
Atul Goel, managing director of Goel Ganga Developers Pvt Ltd, said they “felt vindicated as the court has agreed to the contention that the NGT had clearly misdirected itself for the purpose of levying the damages”.
“We also feel vindicated that the Supreme Court has refused the prayer of demolition made by the applicant,” he said.
“We are in the process of taking advice from our lawyers and after careful perusal of the judgment and law related to it, we may decide to file a Review Application based on the advice of our lawyers,” said Goel.