Halting the ambitious Tata housing project ‘Camelot’ near the Sukhna Lake that had got the go-ahead from the Punjab and Haryana high court on August 21, the Supreme Court on Monday ordered status quo on the project. The multi-storey flat project, purported to be the tallest in the union territory, was part of a project of Tata Housing Development Company Limited.
A bench headed by Justice RM Lodha clarified to the counsel for Tata that its stay orders were in all respects, including the company’s move to seek approval from the wildlife authority. “This is an extremely significant matter. Chandigarh is one of the best planned cities in the country.
Irretrievable damage would be done if such a construction is allowed and later found to be in violation of the rules,” said the court, also seeking response of the Centre and Punjab government in eight weeks on an appeal against the HC’s decision.
Counsel for the petitioner, retired high court judge SS Sodhi, senior advocate PS Patwalia alleged that the Punjab government was hand-in-glove with the company. He alleged that permission was accorded as the company had paid the local MLAs and promised a flat each to them. It was further alleged that the Nayagaon Master Plan 2021, under which the project was permitted, “was tailor-made to suit the needs of the respondent/builder”. Tata apparently purchased the land from a co-operative society formed by MLAs of Punjab, he said.
Supporting the petitioner, the counsel for the UT said the administration had denied permission to the company, but the Punjab government had approved the project in violation of the rules, despite the Centre’s environment ministry turning it down. He claimed that though the company was yet to receive wildlife department’s green signal, brochures were being published and third-party rights were being created.
The petition says the mammoth project — 52 acres to have 1,800 apartments —would destroy Chandigarh. It says the plan is to have 19 towers, each 92m high with 28 floors.
“The northern face of the original city of Chandigarh comprises Sectors 2, 3, 4 and 5. In all the said sectors combined, there would be less than half the number of houses (as compared to the Tata project). In the face of the fact that the project admittedly falls within the (Sukhna Lake) catchment area as per the map of the Survey of India, the high court erred in lifting the ban only on the Tata project,” the petition says.
What HC had ruled
In its judgment on August 21, the Punjab and Haryana high court had said the stay imposed on construction activity in Sukhna Lake’s catchment imposed the HC on May 14, 2012, would not affect Tata’s project. But the stay on construction activities in rest of the catchment would continue. The project’s fate has been hanging in the balance since November 2010 when it was challenged in the HC.
Nov 17, 2010: HC takes suo motu notice of a news item and also issued notices on a PIL filed against the project
Jan 20, 2011: HC orders stay of the project
Jan 13, 2012: On Tata’s plea, Supreme Court orders HC chief justice to dispose of the case at the earliest
Feb 15, 2012: HC reserves its judgment
Mar 26, 2012: HC disposes of the PIL with directions to obtain permissions
Aug 21, 2013 : HC clears decks for construction of project
Oct 7 : SC stays HC orders, directs for status quo on the project