The residents of 102 illegal apartments in Campa cola buildings may cry foul today,but exactly 29 years back,on November 12,1984,the citys civic body,Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC),had issued the first stop-work notice to the builders for going beyond the permitted five floors. Another notice was sent on November 24,1986 and,over the next 13 years,the builders repeatedly approached BMC for regularisation of the illegal floors,only to be rejected by the civic body.
The Campa Cola project in Worli originally had permission to construct nine buildings with ground floor plus five storeys. Three builders eventually constructed seven buildings,three of which had six floors,and the other four had seven,eight,17 and 20 floors.
We found out about the absence of an occupation certificate and the unauthorised construction only in 1999 when we decided to get water connection for the buildings, said Nandini Mehta,a resident who is spearheading the protests. Mehta and her husband own a flat each,both illegal.
In 1999,the High Courts refusal to direct BMC to provide water connection to owners of some illegal flats set the stage for a long-drawn legal battle.
But Jayant Tipnis,70,former architect of Campa Cola buildings,said the affected residents,BMC and even top politicians were aware of the illegalities in the structures. Despite being aware of the illegalities,these residents bought houses in the compound as they were being sold at very low rates, he said. Tipnis was roped in as a replacement for B K Gupta,the original architect for the Campa Cola buildings,in 1985. Guptas licence was cancelled by the BMC in 1984.
The Supreme Courts verdict of February 2013 ordering demolition of 35 illegal floors and 102 unauthorised flats also noted that members of the housing societies knew that the construction was done in violation of the sanctioned plan and permission for occupation of the buildings had not been issued by the competent authority.
We bought the flats in 1983 but moved into the new houses in 1986. People were buying houses in the buildings even after 1986,but nobody was aware of the stop-work notices and the illegality of the structures as the builders and architect had kept us in the dark, said a resident.
Our agreements with the builders did not mention that these plans (with illegal floors) had been rejected by the civic administration, said another resident.
However,Gupta,the original architect,had earlier told The Indian Express that residents were aware of the unauthorised floors when they purchased them. Those days,developers would begin construction as per approved plans and go beyond the approved height,anticipating that it would later be approved or regularised by paying a penalty,Gupta claimed.
Among those who own flats are some prominent personalities. The demolition notice to Flat 802 in Esha Ekta Housing Society states that it is owned by singer Lata Mangeshkar,though residents said her relative Adinath Mangeshkar resides there. The promoters of Concept P R,a public relations agency,have two flats,one of which is illegal.