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SuperTech Twin Towers Demolition: From Litigation to Ashes

September 12, 2022
broken supertech building

By Vikrant Rana and Nihit Nagpal

 ‘The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.’- Mahatma Gandhi

The demolition of the Twin Tower of the United States of America was an act of terrorism, conversely, the demolition of SuperTech’s Twin Tower was an act to end terror and instil deterrence among the builders and developers.

On August 31, 2022, the final hope of SuperTech Ltd. came to a ruinous end when the Supreme Court of India upheld the decision of the Allahabad High Court and found that the construction of its two towers were in gross violation of multiple Acts and declared their construction as illegal. While ordering the demolition of the Supertech twin towers, the Supreme Court in the judgment titled ‘Supertech Limited Vs. Emerald Court Owner Resident Welfare Association & Ors.’[1] held:

“When regulations are brazenly violated by developers, more often than not with the connivance of regulatory authorities, it strikes at the very core of urban planning, thereby directly resulting in an increased harm to the environment and a dilution of safety standards” [2]

This Viewpoint intends to understand the genesis of the entire case from a legal perspective by analysing the laws violated by SuperTech Ltd. that eventually led to demolition of its much invested project, the Twin Towers, incurring a loss of about INR 500 crores.

Why were SuperTech Twin Towers Demolished?

The beginning of the chronology of events can be traced back to the year 2004 when NOIDA allotted a plot of land ad-measuring 48,263 square meters to Super Tech for the development of a group housing society, by the name of Emerald Court. This battle began in 2009 when four residents raised an alarm against Supertech’s violation of building bye-laws by building the twin towers.

The original building plan consisted of fourteen towers, each with a ground and nine floors. Over the years, NOIDA sanctioned three revised plans, the cumulative effect of which was the construction of additional towers and increased height of the towers.
The conflict began when the developer modified the plans, which earlier in 2012 was a complex of fifteen buildings instead of fourteen. Later, every building was supposed to have eleven stories instead of nine. The changes plan also included two additional towers, i.e. Tower 16 and 17 that would rise to 40 floors above the ground. The latter two became the heart of the decade-long legal battle between the residents and Supertech Ltd.
The Residents Welfare Association of Emerald Court challenged the revised plans of NOIDA as these led to construction of additional towers, i.e. Tower 16 and Tower 17 with increased height which also compromised upon minimum distance requirements between buildings. Moreover, these two towers were constructed in front of Tower 1, an area which was reserved to be a green area containing parks and garden etc.
The Court held that SuperTech Developers was guilty of violating the sanctioned plan for Tower 16 and Tower 17 as it breached U.P. Ownership of Flats Act, 1975, NOIDA Building Regulations and Directions, and other related Acts.

1. U.P. Ownership of Flats Act, 1975
Under Section 5(2), of the said Act, the percentage of the undivided interest of each owner of a flat in the common areas and facilities, as expressed in the Declaration, shall not be altered without the consent of all the owners of the flats expressed through an amended Declaration which shall be executed and registered under the Act. In the present case, no consent was obtained by SuperTech Ltd. before beginning the construction of the Towers. Apartment purchasers in Tower 1 were promised a splendid garden view, but were betrayed when Tower 17 was erected over the land reserved for gardens and parks without their consent.

2. NOIDA Building Regulations and Directions, (NBR 2006[3], NBR 2010[4], NBC 2005[5])

As per NBR 2006, the distance between two adjacent building blocks should not be less than half of the height of the tallest building. Tower 1 (37 meters) and 17 (73 meters) were adjacent to each other, thus, the minimum distance between these two towers ought to have been 36.5 meters. Contrastingly, the actual distance between these was mere 9 meters which prima facie was in violation of NBR 2006.
Declaring the developer to be in clear contravention of minimum distance requirement, the Supreme Court held – “The rationale for the distance between building blocks is to ensure fire safety evacuation, light and ventilation. It cannot be left to the builder to designate groups of buildings as one building block since the purpose of maintaining the minimum distance would be seriously compromised.”
As per NBR 2010, the minimum distance between buildings above 18 meters shall be 16 meters. In 2012, when the third revision plan was approved, it further increased the height of these towers to 121 meters. Thus, in order to be within the limits of NBR 2010, the distance between two towers ought to have been at least 16 meters as against the actual distance of 9 meters.
The purpose of prescribing a minimum distance requirement between two buildings is to prevent transmission of fire for safe escape during calamities, minimum ventilation, and to receive natural daylight.
The Supreme Court noted the observations made in K. Ramadas Shenoy v. Chief Officer, Town Municipal Council[6] and remarked – This Court held that an unregulated construction materially affects the right of enjoyment of property by persons residing in a residential area, and hence, it is the duty of the municipal authority to ensure that the area is not adversely affected by unauthorized construction.”[7]

3. Collusion between Builder and the authority.
The Supreme Court further observed that the illegal sanctioning of the revision plans were being obtained by SuperTech Limited in collusion with the Officials of NOIDA which led to the illegal construction of these two towers.

In this Context, the Supreme Court held:

“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. Yet, confronted with 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.”[8]

CONCLUSION
Directing razing of the unauthorized constructions of Twin Towers, the Supreme Court has laid a strong precedent for builders who, without hesitation seem to take law in their own hands and indulge in unlawful constructions. Reliance was placed on Priyanka Estates International (P) Ltd. Judgment[9] wherein the Supreme Court while ordering demolishing of an unauthorized construction held as under:-
“Such activities are required to be dealt with by firm hands otherwise builders/colonisers would continue to build or construct beyond the sanctioned and approved plans and would still go scot-free…Such unlawful constructions are definitely against the public interest and hazardous to the safety of occupiers and residents of multi-storeyed buildings. To some extent both parties can be said to be equally responsible for this. Still the greater loss would be of those flat owners whose flats are to be demolished as compared to the builder.”[10]

An unauthorized construction destroys the concept of planned development, and places an unbearable burden on basic amenities provided by public authorities. In this context, the Supreme Court held that it was imperative for the public authority to not only demolish such constructions but also to impose a penalty on the wrongdoers involved.
The demolition of the twin towers which was aired on national television will always be remembered as a demolition which made the public at large happy, but on the other side Supertech Ltd. also faced a loss of Rs. 500 Crores.

Ms. Zehra Naqvi, Junior Associate at S.S. Rana & Co. has assisted in the research of this article.

This article was first published on Bar & Bench- here
For more information, please write to us at: info@ssrana.com

[1] Civil Appeal No. 5041 of 2021
[2] Paragraph 147 of the Judgment
[3] NOIDA Building Regulations and Directions, 2006
[4] NOIDA Building Regulations and Directions, 2010
[5] National Building Code, 2005
[6] (1974) 2 SCC 506
[7] Paragraph 149 of the Super Tech judgment
[8] Paragraph 148 of the Super Tech Judgment
[9] (2010) 2 SCC 27
[10] Para 152 of the Super Tech Judgment

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