The Corporation buckled under pressure from the developer/builders: Justice Singhvi

In the midst of the drama surrounding the Campa Cola compound case, what stands out is the fact that no serious action is being contemplated against the developers responsible for building as many as 35 storeys in the upscale neighbourhood of Worli without permission.

This point has been commented upon time and again in court proceedings.

In its judgement in February, the Supreme Court noted that the municipality issued its first stop-work notice to the complex in 1984. If a convincing response was not given, the municipality could have razed the unauthorised construction. “It is a different story that after issuing the stop work notice, the authorities of the Corporation buckled under pressure from the developer/builders and turned a blind eye to the illegal construction made between 1984 and 1989,” said Justice G.S. Singhvi who heads the Supreme Court bench that is hearing the case.

The complex was developed by mainly three construction firms:

PSB Construction Company, B.Y. Builders and Yusuf Patel. Among them, The-Hindu traced B.K. Gupta of B.Y. Builders who claimed his own construction was above board. “There is something wrong, but not 100 per cent wrong. It is wrong to target everyone. The FSI violations were in the buildings that came later,” he said.

Mr. Gupta holds the municipality responsible for not acting sooner.

“I had written to the municipality three times, in 1989, 1990 and 1991, asking them to check whether FSI violations were taking place in the remaining work. But they did not bother,” he claims.

Mr. Gupta had served as an architect for the controversial Pratibha building in Mumbai constructed in the 1980s. Eight of its 36 floors were found to be illegal and later demolished.

In 1990, the civic body issued notice to the developers for unauthorised construction. Two year later, it asked residents of irregular apartments to vacate.

In 2002, it launched proceedings under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act against the developers. This led to the prosecution of the developers and levying of fines ranging from Rs. 600 to Rs. 2000.

Hearing the case in 2005, the Bombay High Court came down hard on the municipality. “The affidavit filed by the municipality does not disclose what action, if any, was taken to stop the developer and the owner from proceeding with the construction. Also, what action, apart from launching the prosecution and issuing notices, was taken after the illegal construction was carried out,” the court said. It was after the high court order that the municipality ordered demolition of structures in the compound — an order which the residents challenged in court.

Architect tried to get project regularised

Jayant Tipnis, who was once engaged as the architect for the Campa Cola compound, had tried several times to get the project regularised. “I approached the municipality several times with new plans, but they were rejected. I approached three Chief Ministers, but that too did not work. By then the builders had already sold the flats and were not really interested in pushing the matter.

“Though the municipality issued notices, especially under the stringent MRTP Act, this did not result in demolition or imprisonment.”

‘Municipality was not lax’

Additional Municipal Commissioner Mohan Adtani denied charges of laxity. “The municipality had been issuing notices to the building right from the start. We have taken all the action that was possible under the law,” he said.