‘Withhold Sanction For Fresh Projects Of Builders Who’ve History Of Plan Violations’
Chennai: The search for a mechanism to rein in builders and developers who churn out buildings in violation of sanctioned plans or raise unauthorised constructions, may end here.
If this suggestion of the Madras high court is implemented, unscrupulous builders and promoters, who flout development control rules, may have to either quit the trade or comply with the regulations. A division bench of Justices Prabha Sridevan and M Sathyanarayanan has said the government could withhold sanction for fresh projects of builders who face charges of unauthorised construction or deviation from sanctioned plan.
“Desperate situations require desperate measures,” the judges said, adding: “If sanction is refused on the ground of previous violation, these unscrupulous and careless buildings will be reined in and (will) toe the line. These irregular constructions will not come up. Only then, the living standards of this city can be maintained.” The judges also hoped that the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) and the government would take necessary action. The Ambattur Municipality, which too was made a party to the proceedings, was represented by special government pleader I Paranthamen.
The matter relates to a PIL filed by R Vanaja, who alleged that a builder had put up a totally unauthorised construction at Golden Colony in Mogappair (West), and that the building enjoyed electricity as well as sewerage connection. With these facilities in place, the builder had transferred the property to a third party, she said. She wanted the building to be razed. Not denying the charges, the builder said the structure had no sanction plan and that his first plea for regularisation had already been rejected by the CMDA. His second application is pending, he said.
The bench, expressing concern at the “unchecked proliferation of deviated construction,” said: “We think that a time has come for the CMDA to consider whether some safeguards should be provided or should be introduced in the form of regulations, which will bring to the notice of the sanctioning authorities that the builder or the promoter who applies for sanction plan is already facing litigation for construction not in accordance with sanctioned plan. Then, approval shall not be given to such applicants. Some measures like this alone will discourage the persons who have no respect for adhering to the sanctioned plan, and who are motivated by greed and nothing else.”
The bench has adjourned the matter to February 2, for further proceedings.
As per the original Supreme Court order, only those buildings that were completed before the cut off date of February 28, 1999 were eligible for exemption from demolition. However, the state government issued three ordinances in 2000, 2001 and 2002, each time giving a one-year moratorium for the rogue buildings. Though the Madras high court struck down the ordinances in 2007, the apex court ordered status quo.
The government, in the meantime, came out with two more ordinances of similar nature, and the second ordinance is valid till July 2010.
Many builders don’t seek approval in firms’ names
For a city that is struggling to deal with close to two lakh building violations, the Madras high court order on illegal constructions has come as a welcome relief. If followed in letter and spirit, the court order could infuse much-needed transparency into Chennai’s real estate sector.
Reacting to the court order, Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India (CREDAI), Tamil Nadu chapter president, T Chitty Babu said, “We welcome this judgment. It would put an end to further violations in the city. Building violations are indulged in mostly by individuals who construct houses on their own or small-time builders. The court order is a boon for builders who stick to rules and do quality construction. We will educate CREDAI members on the implications of the order. We already have a code of conduct and those who violate development control rules have no place in our organisation. The regulatory agencies should also see to it that no building is given power, water and sewerage connections without obtaining completion certificate.
“Blacklisting those who violate norms is a ticklish issue because many builders do not apply for approvals in their firms’ names. The applicants would be, at times, land owners, with whom builders would have signed joint-venture agreements for promoting the project. In such cases, even if there are violations, the builders would go scot-free. Hence, the CMDA and DTCP will have a tough time tackling this issue,” said Chitty Babu.
CMDA vice chairperson Susan Mathew told TOI, “Looking at the large-scale violations that have taken place in the city in the past, the high court order is significant. However, we will have to read the order and seek government opinion before deciding on further course of action. The issue will be discussed in the meeting of the Authority (CMDA’s supreme decision-making body) on January 19. We have been periodically issuing notices on buildings that have violated rules after July, 2007. Many buildings have also been sealed.”
Chennai has enough of building violations – starting from violation of permissible floor space index (FSI is the ratio of built-up space to land area) to construction of buildings without approval. The government not only failed in reining in builders doing illegal constructions, but also went about condoning many violations in the past through a series of regularisation schemes in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002. However, the high court subsequently struck down the last three regularisation schemes saying that exemptions like regularisation should be given only once.
The state challenged the order in the SC, which ordered status quo. Meanwhile, the government passed an ordinance in July 2007 stopping all demolition works on buildings which were constructed prior to that. When its term ended, the ordinance was promulgated twice, in July 2008 and July 2009.
Meanwhile, the CMDA, in its second master plan, increased the FSI limits across Chennai Metropolitan Area and also introduced premium FSI scheme to permit builders construct higher floor area after paying a premium fees.