Bring on the bulldozers against the towers of corruption

There should be trumpets and celebration when the heavy cranes and bulldozers come on to demolish Supertech’s illegal Emerald Court towers in Noida.

Published: 05th September 2021 07:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th September 2021 11:50 AM   |  A+A-

Supertech’s twin towers.

Supertech’s twin towers. (File Image)

There should be trumpets and celebration when the heavy cranes and bulldozers come on to demolish Supertech’s illegal Emerald Court towers in Noida. As the rule of law slowly ebbs away in the country, orders such as these offer a small glimmer of hope. Confirming an Allahabad High Court order, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah has ordered housing company Supertech to demolish within 3 months two 40-storey towers built illegally. To protect the hundreds of homebuyers, the court has ordered the builders pay back their booking amounts with 12% interest. 
Prodded on by the court, a special investigation team (SIT) of the UP Police is now searching out Noida Authority’s colluding officials. The layers of corruption and government malfeasance will hopefully be exposed in due course. 

Plaudits are due to citizen power. A dozen or so senior retired officers and residents relentlessly pursued this case in the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Courts for 9 years. They went door to door to fund the litigation, and often travelling in crowded second-class rail coaches to reach Allahabad for the court hearings. The builders still can’t believe they are at the end of the road. 

Illustration: Amit Bandre

Making an example
There are those that forcefully argue that bringing down illegal towers like Supertech’s ‘Apex’ and ‘Ceyane’ is ‘excessive’; and that they should be ‘regularised’ with heavy penalties for future deterrence. They say the biggest losers are the homebuyers who have put in their hard-earned money. Others say the Rs 5,000-crore project is a huge asset loss. Rather than demolition, these properties should be confiscated and used by government or for public purpose. 

In a country where the construction industry functions with scant regard for the law, making an example of lawbreakers is necessary. The former chairman of Maharashtra’s Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), Gautam Chatterjee, once quipped: “A law works if there is 90% compliance and the violators are 10%. If it is the other way round, it won’t work.” 

The Pratibha building, when it was nearing completion in Mumbai in 1984, was detected with 8 additional floors and 24,000 square feet more than the sanctioned plan. After lengthy litigation, the top 8 floors of the 32-storey building were brought down in 1989; but the remaining shell stood for years at the busy intersection of Pedder and Warden roads, a posh South Mumbai district, as a loud reminder of the ‘tower of corruption’. The building was finally brought down entirely in 2015.

But there is no learning. Scarcely a year ago, on 11th and 12th January, the Kerala government, on orders of the Supreme Court, blasted to rubble 5 fully-built apartment blocks in Ernakulam’s Maradu municipality. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and S R Mehta said it was a ‘painful’ decision but the serious coastal regulation zone (CRZ) violations, that posed a threat to life on the waterfront, left them with no choice. All the various actors were culpable: the panchayat that gave the permission, the builders who bent the law, and the buyers who failed to do their due diligence. 

Corrupt officials, the bane
While the poor homebuyers may be excused of ignorance, and builders will be builders, it is the class of planning authorities, municipal supervisors, and fire and safety agencies who are the biggest culprits in this cynical game. They not only manipulate permissions and sanctions, but they knowingly put consumers at risk. Breaking building and density norms are not just paper violations. They cause damage to generations of home owners by increasing the hazards of fire and poor construction. As the Supreme Court pointed out in the Supertech case, bending the planning norms “will deprive the residents of urban areas of the amenities of light, air and ventilation which are essential to maintaining a basic quality of life.”

Meanwhile, many among the wealthier echelons have been grumbling that the yardstick for demolishing illegal building constructions is not being applied to illegal slums. The latter are allowed to thrive as they serve as vote bank for politicians. This is an old, specious argument. Illegal constructions by builders are commercial scams worth thousands of crores and cannot be compared to slums. The latter proliferate as they are the only shelter for the poorest and the most desperate. Slums are the unfortunate spin-offs of high real estate prices and the lack of affordable housing. 

The Supertech case has highlighted that while builders are the known villains and are put in the firing line, the layers of officials who sanctioned their illegal plans melt into the shadow. It is about time, this tribe of corrupt, blood-sucking officials are called out and punished. For the homebuyer, the travails continue. Hidden costs, prolonged delay in delivery and a tacky product that does not resemble the flashy, enticing brochures. For all these harried consumers the rolling out of the bulldozers against these towers of deception is welcome.


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    Visible punishment of sanctioning authority and the builders will definitely bring to an end. Why courts stop with only demolition of illegal buildings ?
    2 months ago reply
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