Supertech demolition: A buyer vs builder battle led by senior citizens
The charge against Supertech and Noida authority, say residents of Emerald Court, was led by an Apartments’ Owners Association almost exclusively comprising senior citizens who devoted all their energies and time into fighting for the homes they had poured their life savings into
When the 32-storey Supertech twin towers Apex and Ceyanne come crashing down on Sunday, it will mark the finale of a modern-day David vs Goliath story--a group of senior citizens vs the builder and Noida authority.
The battle, say residents of Emerald Court, was led by an Apartments’ Owners Association (AOA) almost exclusively comprising senior citizens who devoted all their energies and time into fighting for the homes they had poured their life savings into.
Homes, which Supertech promised, would give them a “luxurious living experience” and be surrounded by 82% open landscaped area. All seemed well when residents first started moving into the society comprising 660 flats in 15 towers of 12-15 floors each. They formed an AOA then mostly comprising working men and women in the society.
However, upon moving in, residents realised they had been given a raw deal.
“We were sold the promise of living like royalty, but when we moved into the society in 2009, we realised we had not been given even half the amenities that we had paid for. Most of the brochure was a bunch of lies. Even the construction material used in the buildings was of much lower quality than was originally promised,” Uday Bhan Singh Teotia, AOA president of Emerald Court, says.
The contrast between the poetry mentioned in the brochure and the on-ground reality made such an impact on the residents that they still carry the brochure around with every false promise highlighted in fluorescent green and notes on the illegalities involved scribbled in the margins. It made one of the most telling pieces of evidence in the legal battle against the builder, residents say.
“And then the builder started digging up more area the same year,” Teotia adds.
Residents say the area had been earmarked as an open green area in the initial plan.
They started asking around what the digging was for. They checked with the workers on site, asked the builder to respond and even wrote letters to the Noida authority, but got no response.
A few months later, the builder updated the plan to show that the area was being converted into a small commercial complex of about two floors.
“I initially thought that the builder was being generous and giving us an additional swimming pool. I had a beautiful view from my balcony all the way up to the expressway. Way back in 2009, I paid an additional ₹70,000 for this view. Having 40 floors blocking that view was beyond my imagination,” says Rajesh Rana, one of the former AOA members, who owns a flat in Aster-2, right next to the twin towers.
Aster-2 stands closest to the twin towers, just nine metres away. One of the biggest contentions raised by residents, instrumental in winning the case, was the fact that according to National Building Code, 2005, and Noida authority’s own construction bylaws, there should be at least a 16m distance between two residential towers in a society.
The old guard takes charge
However, as the construction showed no signs of stopping, residents started asking questions again.
When the authorities did not respond to residents’ queries, they filed an RTI, which to date remains unanswered. The young bloods in the AOA, comprising working men and women handling the resident body along with the pressures of their offices, children’s needs and responsibilities at home were giving up hope. That is when the old guard stepped in and took charge.
“We were lucky to have a dedicated group of senior citizens who saw the entire process through,” says Rana, 62, a former AOA member who stepped down in 2011, and gave way to an AOA consisting almost entirely of senior citizen office bearers.
Residents say this group, led by Ravi Bajaj (72), UBS Teotia (80), late MK Jain, SK Sharma (75), Vashisht Sharma (60), Rajpal Tandon (85) and Gaurav Devnath (50) would meet in common areas and during their morning and evening walks to discuss their plan of action.
To be sure, several Emerald Court residents are retired officials from government services, the military and paramilitary, judiciary as well as ministries. Many are experienced in legal know-how. With the backing of all such residents, the senior citizen-led AOA finally filed a PIL in the Allahabad high court in December 2012.
The twin towers were already 13 floors high.
Residents had by then come to know that the builder had planned 40-floor high twin towers—Apex and Ceyanne—that would have 957 flats and 21 floors. The builder had released brochures promising that the twin towers would include studio apartments along with 1BHK and 2BHK flats, while the remaining 15 towers of Emerald Court had 3BHK and 4BHK flats.
“The common resources promised for 660 flats would now have to be shared by about 1,000 more flats. Our green area would have two imposing towers. From the initial luxurious experience, we were going towards becoming a slum,” Teotia says.
The builder, meanwhile, continued with the construction.
“As the case started, they started construction at war level. The labour was told to work day and night to erect as many floors as possible. We kept waiting to fight it out legally,” says Ravi Bajaj, another resident.
The Allahabad high court order in 2014 directing the demolition of the twin towers came as a relief to residents, but the euphoria was short-lived. Both Noida authority and Supertech appealed against the order in Supreme Court.
The twin towers, by now, were 32 stories high.
As the case continued in court, residents realised they needed more funds for legal expenses. Septuagenarian MK Jain, the backbone of the team, took up the responsibility.
“There were about 500 occupied flats by then, and we decided to ask every flat to pay ₹10,000 each. Some did, but many refused to pay. We went door-to-door trying to convince people. That is when Jain came forward and said that he would pay for additional legal expenses and exhorted others to pay their share. He led the way but passed away due to Covid-19 last year. We are gutted that he is not here today to be part of the victory,” says Bajaj.
After this first contribution, every flat owner paid ₹17,000-20,000 for legal expenses. The residents’ association collected over ₹1 crore for legal fees.
The final order
In court, residents’ counsel highlighted all the illegalities that took place due to a nexus between Supertech and the Noida authority officials over several years, as the authority and builder refuted the charges.
Finally, in August 2021, Supreme Court upheld the Allahabad high court’s 2014 order direction the demolition of the towers and said authority officials were “reeking in corruption, right from their eyes to nose” and that the authority’s counsel often presented arguments that seemed like they were being made by the builder’s lawyer.
The Supreme Court order mentioned that over several years, the authority bent norms and changed rules to let Supertech forge ahead with the construction of the towers.
“When these 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,” the Supreme Court order said.