Saturday, October 19, 2013

Grave injustice - The BMC is wrong to target flat owners of Campa Cola Compund Worli instead of builders

Grave injustice!

The BMC is wrong to target flat owners instead of builders

To right a wrong is justice. But when that involves punishing the innocent and rewarding the culprits, justice is not served. Yet, the residents of the Campa Cola compound in Worli, Mumbai, face a very similar situation.
To summarize, about 60 years ago, in 1955, the BMC leased 17,901 sq mt to Pure Drinks Ltd, which then converted 13,409 sq mt of the entire plot into a residential zone, and gave the development rights to PSB construction, Yusuf Patel and B.K. Gupta. In 1983, their plans to build nine buildings of five floors each were sanctioned. However, the builders eventually constructed seven high-rise buildings from 1981 to 1989. While four of the buildings are limited to about six storeys, two towers of 20 floors and 17 floors were also constructed. This despite the fact that the BMC issued several stop work notices and a penalty in 1986. Or as the Supreme Court states in its judgment, “It is a different story that after issuing a ‘stop work notice’, the authorities of the Corporation buckled under pressure from the developers/builders and turned a blind eye to the illegal constructions made between 1984 and 1989.” So the builders built, sold and gave possession of all the flats, without an occupation certificate (OC) and hid material facts such as the lack of BMC approval, the sanctions, stop work notices, etc. Nor did the builders execute a conveyance to the buyers.

A review of the facts suggest that had some of the buildings not appealed to the Bombay High Court for a water connection, this case would probably  have never come to where it is today. The BMC, instead of providing a water connection to the other  buildings, issued a demolition notice, stating that the original sanctioned plan allowed for only five floors. The demolition notices cover an area of approximately 8,000 sq mt. Yet, a 2010 order by the chief minister’s office states that the area beyond the permissible FSI limit in this case is only 1,774 sq mt. And if that wasn’t odd enough, the Supreme Court has upheld both – the BMC’s demolition notices and the chief minister’s order! Which begs the question – how can the BMC demolish 8,000 sq mt when the Supreme Court has agreed that only 1,774 sq mt is illegal?

But this case is not just about legal discrepancies. There are much larger issues at stake. The BMC seeks to demolish these buildings in order to set a precedent that such unauthorized construction will not be tolerated. In doing so, it harms 102 flat owners, and over 200 innocent families. Demolishing these buildings serves no purpose other than an empty chest thumping in the name of making an example of unscrupulous builders, and worse, rewarding Pure Drinks with the FSI that will result from the broken flats. Nor does the BMC seek any punishment for the builders, the actual lawbreakers.

In another twist to the case, Pure Drinks sold the remaining, undeveloped parcel of land to Krishna Developers, who sought to develop the property. But the plot remains undivided as per BMC records and due to the ongoing issues, the builder has been unable to construct as planned. Many residents allege that the builder is hand in glove with the BMC to destroy the 8,000 sq mt, and buy out the remaining five floors to ensure a large, prime piece of real estate for the builder and his backers, while the current residents, many old and infirm would be out on the streets.

It is also rather unimaginable, how the BMC plans to demolish over 15 floors of a building while leaving the remaining five intact, without any harm to their foundation or structure? By the BMC’s own admission, there are over 65,000 illegal structures in Mumbai. Experts believe that number is actually far greater. Then why is the BMC hell bent on singling out this group of residents, when it can  easily charge them a penalty, destroy a much smaller part of it, regularize it and make it legal?

BMC supporters allege that the residents are at fault for buying an apartment without an oc. But in a city like Mumbai, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that over 30 per cent of all apartment owners must lack an OC. Besides, at a time when most people buy an apartment before it has even been constructed, there is no choice but to rely on the builder and hope that the plans have been approved by the BMC. To set a precedent that builders will go unpunished, and buyers will be homeless is devoid of compassion, but most importantly, logic.

Courtesy: Business India

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