The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that home buyers suffer the impact of “unholy nexus of builders and planners”, when the latter breach their obligation to ensure compliance with building regulations, which is a violation of law.
The top court made this observation while directing the demolition of 40-storey twin-towers of Emerald Court, constructed by real estate company Supertech in Noida.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said construction of twin towers was violative of the minimum distance requirement, and emphasised that the purpose of stipulating a minimum distance is a matter of public interest in planned development.
The bench noted that the residents who occupy constructed areas in a housing project are entitled to ventilation, light and air, and adherence to fire safety norms.
“The purpose of stipulating a minimum distance comprehends several concerns. These include safeguarding the privacy of occupants and their enjoyment of basic civic amenities including access to well-ventilated areas where air and light are not blocked by the presence of close towering constructions,” said the bench, adding that the prescription of a minimum distance also has a bearing on fire safety.
“In the event of a fire, there is a danger that the flames would rapidly spread from one structure to adjoining ones,” it added.
Against the backdrop of several violations by the builder, the bench said that NOIDA chose to lend its support to it in clear defiance of the provisions of law. “A breach by the planning authority of its obligation to ensure compliance with building regulations is actionable at the instance of residents whose rights are infringed by the violation of law,” said Justice Chandrachud, who authored the 140-page judgment on behalf of the bench.
The bench added: “Unfortunately, the diverse and unseen group of flat buyers suffers the impact of the unholy nexus between builders and planners. Their quality of life is affected the most.”
If violation of law were to be raised, the bench noted home buyers confront the economic might of developers and the might of legal authority wielded by planning bodies. “The few who raise their voices have to pursue a long and expensive battle for rights with little certainty of outcomes. As this case demonstrates, they are denied access to information and are victims of misinformation. Hence, the law must step in to protect their legitimate concerns,” it said.
The top court directed the real estate company to refund money to homebuyers who booked flats in the twin-towers with 12 per cent interest.