Supreme Court criticizes the practice of converting single residential units into apartments

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While hearing Resident’s Welfare Association and another vs. the Union Territory of Chandigarh and others case, the Supreme Court criticized the practice of converting single residential units into apartments. The top Court highlighted that, “the considered view that permitting reidentification in Phase I, which has heritage value, on account of being “Corbusian Chandigarh”, without the same being approved by the Heritage Committee, is contrary to the CMP2031 itself.”

Chandigarh has been envisaged as an administrative city with hierarchical distribution of population being such that the population density in the northern sectors is low, which increases towards the southern sectors. The appellant grieved that certain developers were purchasing the plots, constructing three apartments and thereafter selling them to three different persons. It was sought to be contended that though the 2001 Rules were repealed, thereby prohibiting the construction of apartments on plots meant for single dwelling, and though the 1960 Rules and the 2007 Rules prohibited the fragmentation/amalgamation, some unscrupulous elements were attempting to construct and sell the apartments by indulging into illegal practices.

In this context, the High Court was for restraining the respondents from permitting residential plots in the UT of Chandigarh which were allotted as single dwelling units to be constructed or utilized as apartments. They also stated that “there was no provision under the 1952 Act or the Rules framed thereunder governing transfer of shares in relation to a site or building whether owned singly or under joint ownership.” Therefore, the High Court highlighted that the same would not legally amount to partial partition. The case was then heard by the division bench of Supreme Court comprising Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice BV Nagarathna.

The top Court observed that it is high time that the Legislature, the Executive and the Policy Makers at the Centre as well as at the State levels take note of the damage to the environment on account of haphazard developments. Also, they should take necessary measures to ensure that the development does not damage the environment. Further, an appeal was made by the Supreme Court to the Legislature, the Executive and the Policy Makers at the Centre as well as at the State levels to make necessary provisions for carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment studies before permitting urban development. The top Court hoped that the Union of India as well as the State Governments will take earnest steps in that regard and the appeal was allowed.