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PoliticsIndiaWhy Noida twin towers could not be utilised rather than demolished

Why Noida twin towers could not be utilised rather than demolished

While the Supertech Twin Towers in Noida, also deemed as India's tallest building Twin Towers, were declared illegal both by the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court and they are slated to be demolished tomorrow, people are asking why the buildings could not be used instead as government offices, a school or a hospital. Today, the agency given the contract to demolish the buildings, based on their experience of handling a similar demolition in Kerala, is checking all explosives and related arrangements for the demolition, the project officials said. They said that interconnecting the Supertech's illegal twin towers and placing a 100 m long cable from the structures to the exploder are two tasks that remain before the explosion.

The demolition tomorrow is expected to be spectacular, ending the decade-long battle between Supertech and the residents around the twin towers where the latter had a three-fold grievance:
1. Why the initial plan was changed time and again since the conception of the project
2. Why the patch that was supposed to be left green was filled with the twin monstrosities
3. Why the number of floors was increased from 25 to 40

-based Developmental company Supterch Limited began construction for the project, initially named Emerald Court, in the mid-2000s. The project entailed building 3, 4 and 5 BHK flats. It was located off the Delhi-Meerut Expressway, this stretch of which can also be called the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway. 

Even if the twin towers are illegal, why is all the money that went into constructing them being wasted instead of giving it away for state philanthropy — like turning the buildings into government offices, a school or a hospital?

If the flats now have a valuation between Rs 1 crore to Rs 3 crore, it is clear that they were meant to be luxury apartments. The plan for such apartments is generally made in a way that is conducive only to living rather than working. The rooms are not like classrooms of a school or wards of a hospital. And in case every flat in the two towers or a few of them clubbed together is conceived as an office, too many offices have to be identified to be moved to this location.

But the courts, regardless of the logic above, wanted to send across a clear message: no tolerance for corruption. Demolishing the twin towers alone could send across this no-nonsense message. Rajive Kumar, chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Real Estate Regulatory Authority (UP-Rera), said by ordering that the 32-storey high buildings be brought down, the Supreme Court has sent a clear message — that not following rules will cost builders dearly.

“If anyone does not follow the regulations, they will have to face the consequences. UP-Rera issues a registration number to a new realty project only after the developer has sanctioned a layout map from a competent authority. And we upload all certificates related to a realty project on our portal, where buyers can examine them and make an informed choice,” said Kumar.

Answers to the subsequent questions will establish that the twin towers would not have been safe to house offices, a school or a hospital, given the shameless extent to which the builder tampered with the permitted plan.

How did the twin towers turn illegal?

The New Okhla Industrial Development Authority had submitted a project plan for 14 nine-storey towers in Noida. But by 2012, one saw it turned into a complex of 15 buildings instead of 14, with each building having 11 storeys instead of nine. 

Further, two more towers, which would rise to 40 floors above the ground, were conceived. This was at the heart of the decade-long legal battle between the residents and an increasingly greedy Supertech that was hankering after more buyers out of the limited land and a permitted number of flats they had been allowed by the authority.

The greed of Supertech did not end there. The builder had promised to have a green area in front of Tower One, the documents submitted in court pre-December 2006 show. The builder had, in the meantime, modified the plan in June 2005. This means they tried to take the court for a ride too. Supertech then turned the area that was supposed to stay green into the ground on which Ceyane and Apex, the Twin Towers at the heart of the legal fight, would rise.

The judgment of the Allahabad High Court as well as that of the Supreme Court said, besides violating the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Apartment Act 2010, officials of the town planning department also failed to check and ensure a mandatory distance of 16 m between the two buildings while approving the blueprints.

They still did not stop tinkering with the project details. The builder revised the plan for the third time in March 2012, with Emerald Court turning into a project of 15 towers of 11 storeys and the heights of Ceyane and Apex stretched from 24 floors to 40 floors.

Who complained?

The residents of Emerald Court did. They demanded that Ceyane and Apex be demolished as the towers were being constructed illegally. The residents asked the Authority to cancel the approvals granted for the construction of the twin towers.

The residents moved the Allahabad High Court, seeking that a court order to demolish the towers. The court agreed to the demands of the Emerald Court's residents. In April 2014, the high court ordered the demolition of the twin towers. 

However, Supertech appealed against the verdict and the matter reached the Supreme Court of India. All this while, the builder had hired a battery of eminent lawyers to defend its transgressions. They stretched the case as long as they could in the high court as well as the highest court of the country.

When some of the biggest names among advocates read out some favourable parts of the Allahabad High Court verdict, Justice DY Chandrachud snubbed the defence and said he had had some experience of working in the said high court and that he was not impressed by the selective citation from its verdict. 

Finally, the Supreme Court of India ordered the demolition of the twin towers, citing the fact that the towers were constructed illegally, in 2021.

Supertech then appealed to the Supreme Court to review its order. The builder's lawyers once again managed to stretch the case. The defence tried to create an impression they were concerned about the safety of Emerald Court’s residents too. The deadline for the demolition got pushed back periodically. But the Supreme Court never budged. 

The Supreme Court said that the Authority and Supertech had engaged in "nefarious complicity" and ordered the company to demolish the buildings at its own expense under the guidance of the Noida Authority.

Will not demolishing these large buildings prove a health hazard?

Edifice Engineering, a Mumbai-based firm with the experience of demolishing four illegal apartments near Kochi in Kerala, will demolish the Noida Twin Towers on 28 August by a technique of implosion. This means that the towers will cave in rather than fall in any direction, which could hurt people or damage properties nearby.

The implosion will involve placing more than 3,700 kg of explosives inside holes drilled in specific parts of the building structure that supports Ceyane and Apex. The detonation will take place from the ground upward. That is, the explosives placed on the ground floor will go off first. Then those set on the first floor and so on.

There is a virtual curfew in the area, with the authority telling residents of the entire locality to stay indoors for a stretch of time between an hour before the demolition and hours after it.

Did potentially unscrupulous builders take any lesson from the no-nonsense stand of the judiciary?

They most likely did. UP-Rera officials said buyers now have easy access to all documents related to any realty project online. They can check for approvals and then file a complaint if they find discrepancies.

“If there is any violation by the promoter, we take prompt action in accordance with rules. We don’t think realtors will now take a risk and violate building regulations as it will have far-reaching consequences. The demolition of the twin towers will restore the customers’ faith in the sector. They now have faith that their interests will be protected,” said Kumar who was mentioned in one of the answers above.

The Noida authority said it had started approving building maps online using custom-made software to ensure that there is no room for violations.

“Now we use software to sanction building maps of new projects. This software checks if all provisions of building regulations 2010 are adhered to. For example, if the setback area or distance between two towers is not in accordance with the norms or if any document, such as a fire safety clearance is missing, then the software will not process the application,” said Ishtiyaq Ahmed, chief architect and town planner, Noida authority.

Officials of the Noida authority also said there is a strict edict in place after the Supreme Court order said the twin tower violations were a result of a “nefarious complicity” between the Noida authority and the developer.

“Now, we have directed the staff to follow all ‌building regulations while approving the maps. We have given a clear message that those who violate the rules will face strict action,” said Ahmed.

Any lesson for customers?

Given that the gross violations in the twin towers came to the fore only because of the tireless efforts of buyers and residents — it was they who filed the first case in the Allahabad high court in 2012, claiming that several rules were violated in the construction of the towers — it stands to reason that when the towers come down, it will help buyer confidence go up.

“This incident has had a two-level impact; one is that officials involved are facing FIRs and the realtor is being punished for violations. The incident has sent a message that such violations will not be tolerated in the future. Two, the strict verdict has resulted in customers trusting the authorities. We have realised that the customers now want to invest in a housing project where they can shift and execute registry with no hassle. If the title is not clear and flat is not ready to move in, then they are reluctant to invest in projects in Noida and Greater Noida,” said Nikhil Havelia, joint secretary of Credai’s Western Uttar Pradesh chapter.

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