When 61-year-old B V Raisinghani, working with a private limited company, got possession of his apartment in Supertech’s Emerald Court in 2009, he expected to enjoy a grand lifestyle as the project, marketed as a ‘jewel of perfection’, promised excellent amenities and facilities.
After moving in, however, Raisinghani alleges that he and others in the building discovered many flaws such as seepage in their apartments, lack of fire-fighting equipment, faulty sewerage and drainage systems and absence of a compound wall - a security threat in itself. Then, while negotiating with Supertech for the resolution of their issues, the residents came to know that the Noida Authority had allowed the developer to revise his original plan and construct two more towers - 16 (Ceyane) and 17 (Apex).
The Allahabad High Court had recently ordered the demolition of the two towers, located in Sector 93-A of Noida as part of the Emerald Court Complex.
“In 2004-05, the Noida Authority had leased out 48,263 sq mt land in Sector 93A to Supertech and sanctioned the layout plan for the construction of a group housing project. A total of 15 residential towers were proposed to be constructed, but in June 2006, the Authority leased out an additional 6,556.51 sq mt of land allowing the developer to construct a shopping centre and a residential tower of ground plus 11. We did not object to the additional lease and the revised plan because it did not seem as if any rules had been flouted and we were anyway too concerned with our battle to improve the facilities in our towers (the existing 15 structures) to worry about the new plan,” says Raisinghani.
He and other apartment owners, who later formed a residents’ welfare association, say they smelt a scam when in November 2009 the Noida Authority allowed the developer to revise his earlier plan to build a shopping centre and residential tower and replace them with two residential towers – Ceyane and Apex, each with 24 floors.
UBS Teotia, president of Emerald Court Owner Residents’ Welfare Association, says, “The sanction of the additional land and the Authority’s approval of two residential towers made us suspect that building regulations were being violated with impunity. Soon, when construction work of the two towers started, we realised that both were being built dangerously close to tower 1. The 2010 building regulations of Noida read with the National Building Code 2005 state that it is mandatory to maintain a distance of 16 metres between two towers. This allows free movement of fire tenders inside the compound,” he adds.
The angry homebuyers then bombarded the Noida Authority with letters and e-mails, demanding action. Instead of listening to them, however, the Authority, in March 2012 allowed the developer to purchase additional FAR of 2.75, giving permission for construction of 16 more floors, bringing the number of floors to 40 each in the two towers.
The residents allege they were not informed about the new approvals. Rajpal Tandon, ex-president of the RWA, says, “We came to know about these developments through RTIs. When our repeated requests to the Noida Authority fell on deaf ears, we wrote to the prime minister of India, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and several other government agencies for action against the developer. Our effort put so much pressure on the Noida Authority that it started issuing show cause notices to the developer on our complaints.”
The complaint of the RWA office bearers about the non-functioning and inadequate fire safety equipment was found valid by the chief fire officer of Gautam Budh Nagar. Other RWA complaints against encroachments on the setback area (gap between boundary wall and the tower), construction in the basements etc went unheeded and the Authority didn’t take any concrete step to resolve the problems. When all options were exhausted, the RWA of Emerald Court moved the Allahabad High Court on December 2012.
“The last few years have been very painful for us. We have had to pool in resources to fight the legal battle despite our own financial constraints. Not only that, we have got threatening calls from unidentified people warning us of dire consequences if we continue to fight the case. Elderly members of the RWA were stalked whenever they stepped out of the boundary. The battle has really tested our patience,” says Raisinghani.
The RWA members say that despite fighting an exhausting battle with the developer and the Noida Authority, they have not lost the will to take on the opposing parties in the Supreme Court if they file petitions.
Allegations of threats ‘baseless’
When asked if Supertech had been involved in making the threatening calls and stalking RWA members, RK Arora, chairman, Supertech, said “these are utterly baseless allegations. It’s unfortunate to see how people can stoop so low to make such allegations. We are a law-abiding company and we believe in the process of law. In fact, the RWA members have their own vested interests in the case so they are saying whatever they want.”