It was through purchasable FAR in 2009 and 2011 that the height of the twin towers, Apex and Ceyane, was increased after the Noida Authority sanctioned amended building plans.
On August 31, the Supreme Court ordered the demolition of both towers, holding that they were built in violation of law and observing that there was collusion between officials of the Noida Authority and Supertech that led to the towers’ construction. The court also directed prosecution of erring officials. The UP government has set up a special investigation team (SIT) to fix responsibility for collusion.
Sources said the introduction of purchasable FAR was proposed as an amendment to the Noida Authority’s building regulations of 2006 and the state government issued a notification on February 19, 2009 to approve the Authority’s demand. Besides the permissible FAR that was purchasable, construction companies were given an option of buying an additional 33% FAR by paying up charges for that to the Authority. The planning section of the Authority had cited the need to increase FAR on an immediate basis, said senior officers.
The explanation offered was that Noida Authority needed to augment its financial resources and release the stress on available land for housing by encouraging vertical development. As metro connectivity was needed to improve mobility within the city, the view that was circulated was that selling additional development rights in the form of FAR would enable the Authority raise the required capital to improve the infrastructure in the city.
The Noida Authority probe team that has been tasked with inquiring into decisions taken since the allotment of land to Emerald Court in 2004 and the revisions in its building plans in December 2006, November 2009 and March 2012 has focused on the 2007-2013 period, when the maximum number of group housing projects were launched in the city, to understand if private developers and Authority officials colluded.
“We will recommend prosecution against people involved with the Supertech Emerald Court map amendments between 2009 and 2012. But it is important to find out what was done before that period as well. An officer who was part of the special map approval committee was the one who introduced the concept of purchasable FAR in mid-2008 before it was approved by the board in November 2008,” said a probe officer.
Dhaval Parsana, an urban planner specialising in the housing sector who works with government agencies in Delhi-NCR, said, “The concept of purchasable development rights was introduced for the first time in the country in the early 1990s by the Maharashtra government to decongest the island city of Mumbai. It was an instrument through which people were able to increase floor space index or FAR as we call it. Coastal cities have to promote vertical development as they have little scope of expanding city limits. From the current scenario that prevails in Noida and Greater Noida, it seems to me that supply was much higher than the demand in those years.”
Twin towers less than 1% of our portfolio: Supertech
Supertech, meanwhile, issued a formal statement on Saturday, announcing it will file a review petition before the Supreme Court against the order to bring down the twin towers, insisting the project had necessary approvals and maps were sanctioned by the Noida Authority. The group also said it has the capability of delivering all its ongoing projects, on which there has been much speculation among homebuyers since the order. Senior executives of the group said that outstanding payments to homebuyers in the twin towers who have not yet taken refunds amount to less than Rs 30 crore.
Supertech chairman RK Arora said the group is developing 10 crore square feet across its projects and the twin towers constitute about 6 lakh square feet. “I want to emphasise before our buyers and stakeholders that the twin towers are less than 1% of our portfolio,” said Arora.
The group said other projects will be delivered within the stipulated timeframe and their monitoring is happening through independent UP-Rera accounts. Though buyers are yet to be refunded money, the group clarified that the twin towers have no other debt obligation.