Developer’s Supreme Court plea may put 18 buildings in Mumbai under lens

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MUMBAI: Eighteen multi-storey buildings in the western suburbs have come under a cloud after the developer of a controversial Juhu building told the Supreme Court that, just like his 11-storey JVPD high-rise, these buildings too had plans with car parking decks on habitable floors.

Pappu Satra, the developer of the Juhu residential tower, was dragged to the Bombay high court for large-scale violations, including having car parking decks outside flats that allegedly could be later amalgamated into the flats’ carpet areas. Satra has spilled the beans to the SC on 18 allegedly similar projects in Mumbai’s western suburbs to justify his case.

Satra’s JVPD Scheme project has become a test case for builders who build car parking slots adjoining apartments on higher floors. Civic activists allege that these slots are not really for parking, but are sold illegally at market rates and later surreptitiously amalgamated into the flat by the owner in connivance with the developer.

 

A legal battle has been on between Juhu’s Gulmohar Area Society’s Welfare Group and Satra’s Shravan Developers, and it has now reached the Supreme Court. Earlier this month, Satra’s Special Leave Petition presented the list of 18 buildings sanctioned by the BMC and which are located from Bandra to Jogeshwari.

Last week, the Juhu residents’ group wrote to civic chief Sitaram Kunte asking him to verify the status of these 18 buildings and find out if the car parking areas on each floor had been misused. “The builder (Satra) has produced a list of proposals sanctioned by you (BMC) to support its case that the car parking space has not been included as usable area or to extend the flat. Kindly order an inquiry,” said the welfare group in its letter.

Residents said they have “reliable information that parking space in several of these buildings has been misused and included as the drawing room or usable area of the flat, contrary to the permission granted by the BMC”. “Please forward a copy of the list to each ward to enable them to carry out an expeditious inquiry and provide a report so that we can place your report before the Supreme Court,” said the letter addressed to Kunte.

Of the 196 parking slots in Satra’s building, as many as 99 are on habitable floors (stilt and podium), with nine on each floor. The average size of a flat in the tower was shown as around 2,000 sq ft. However, the builder provided an equivalent space outside each flat for car decks.

Last year, the then municipal commissioner ordered the demolition of certain portions of the high-end tower and directed the builder to pay a security deposit as a “deterrent against possible misuse of these car decks in future”. The deposit, based on the stamp duty ready reckoner rates of developed land, worked out to over Rs 50 crore. The order also said that no occupation permission or water connection would be granted to the building unless the deposit was paid to the corporation.

The BMC said the total car deck area in the building was around 75,000 sq ft, which fetched the builder an additional Rs 150 crore (sold at the prevailing rate of about Rs 20,000 per sq ft in Juhu). Besides basement and podium parking, the builder was allowed to construct nine car park decks on each floor of the building, which has three wings of 11 floors each and 33 flats. The project was approved when Jairaj Phatak was BMC chief.

Kumar’s report also ordered the demolishing of either the lily ponds and adjacent deck areas or equivalent areas of the building’s upper floors. It also directed the extended portion of toilets, which are beyond the approved plan, to be demolished.

The commissioner also said the 11th floor can be constructed within the permissible floor space index (FSI, or the ratio of total built-up area vis-a-vis the plot size). “It may be regularized by charging premium/penalty. Else the same shall be demolished,” said the order.

However, the Bombay high court last year said the municipal commissioner should have given a hearing to flat purchasers before directing the demolition of lily ponds and deck areas in the tower.

But the builder approached the Supreme Court, stating that the high court had “erred” in sending the matter back to the commissioner. “The high court failed to appreciate that grave prejudice is being caused to various flat purchasers who have invested large amounts of money to buy the flats,” said the builder.

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