Goel Ganga Developers fined Rs 100 crores, PMC Rs 5 lakh

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Sumit Singh

Pune – The Supreme Court on Friday imposed a fine of Rs 100 crores on builder Goel Ganga Developers India Pvt Ltd, in connection with illegal constructions at a housing project in Vadgaon Budruk. The order came on appeal filed by the builder against the order of National Green Tribunal (NGT), Pune, to pay Rs 190 crores fine in January this year.

The apex court has ordered the builder to pay the fine within six months else all the assets of the M/s. Goel Ganga Developers India Pvt. Ltd. as well as its Directors shall be attached and the amount of damages shall be recovered by sale of those assets.

“It is further directed that in case this amount is not deposited within the period of six months then the licence/registration/permission granted to M/s. Goel Ganga Developers India Pvt. Ltd. to develop any “real estate project” within the meaning of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 shall be cancelled and the project proponent i.e. M/s. Goel Ganga Developers India Pvt. Ltd. and its Directors shall not be granted permission to develop any “real estate project” under the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 without permission of this Court”, the judgment states.

It further adds, “We impose damages of Rs.100 crores or 10% of the project cost, whichever is higher on the project proponent and in addition thereto, project proponent will pay Rs.5 crores as levied by the NGT in its order dated 27.09.2016; Project proponent shall not be permitted to raise construction of two buildings having 454 tenements; We direct that the project proponent shall only be permitted to complete construction of a total 807 flats, 117 shops/offices and cultural centre including club house; The project proponent will only be permitted to seek environmental clearance for completion of the project subject to payment of costs in the aforesaid terms and it may be granted ex post facto environmental clearance in the peculiar facts of the case, on such terms and conditions as the environmental authority deems fit and proper.”

The court also clarified on built up area. “That built up area under the notification of 14.09.2006 means all constructed area which is not open to the sky. Built up area under the notification of 04.04.2011 means all covered area including basement and service areas,” the apex court clarified.

The court also upheld the fine imposed (by NGT) upon the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the direction given to the PMC to take appropriate action against the erring officials. “We uphold the original order dated 27.09.2016 holding that the construction raised by the project proponent was in violation of the environmental clearance granted to it on 04.04.2008. We also uphold the direction given to the Chief Secretary to the State of Maharashtra and in addition, direct that the Chief Secretary to the State of Maharashtra shall look into the conduct of the official holding the post of Principal Secretary (Environment) to the Government of Maharashtra on 27.09.2016 and will submit his report to the NGT within three months from today”

What is the case all about ?

On January 8 this year, the NGT western zone bench had increased the fine on Goel Ganga Developers India Private Limited, from Rs 105 crore to Rs 190 crores while hearing a revision petition. Last year in September, the NGT had ordered builder to pay an environmental compensation cost of Rs 100 crore or 5% of the total cost of the project, whichever is less, for flouting environment clearance (EC) conditions relating to an integrated housing project at Vadgaon Budruk off Sinhagad road. The bench had also directed the developer, Goel Ganga Developers India Private Limited, to pay another Rs 5 crore for contravening several environmental laws.

The developer had constructed 18 multi-storied buildings having 807 flats as against the EC that was granted on April 4, 2008 for only 12 buildings with 552 flats as part of the integrated project, `Ganga Bhagyoday’, `Ganga Bhagyoday Towers’ and `Amrut Ganga’. The EC was for a total plot area of 79,100 sq metres and total built up area of 57,658.42 sq metres. However, according to an observation made by the bench, the actual total built up area was in excess of one lakh sq metres, which could not have been done without a modified EC. The builder had filed a revision petition against the NGT order, following which the NGT had increased the fine to Rs 190 crores.

What the builder has to say ?

Atul Goel, Managing Director, Goel Ganga Developers (I) Pvt. Ltd., said , “We are in receipt of a copy of the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 10th August 2018 and after reading the same, we feel vindicatedon the points we had raised in the Appeal such as the Review Petition order by NGT dated 8th January 2018, was clearly erroneous, the issue as regards carbon footprint does not find it place in any statute books and the NGT clearly misdirected itself for the purpose of levying the damages. We also feel vindicatedthat the Hon’ble Supreme Court has refused the prayer of demolition made by the original Applicant, Mr. Gambire and has also categorically observed in paragraph 50 of the judgment that the original Application fled by Mr. Gambire is not a public interest litigation and therefore, his claim of special damages is specifically refused. Further, Mr. Gambire made allegations against various officers of PMC and Environment Department and the Hon’ble Court in paragraph 25 has categorically refused to go into such allegations as such officers were not party to the proceedings before NGT or Hon’ble Supreme Court. We have carefully also read the observations of Hon’ble Supreme Court on the definition of built up area and its interpretation in light of notification issued by MoEF. We are in the process of taking advice from our lawyers and after careful perusal of the judgment and law related to it, we may decide future course of action. We, Goel Ganga as a brand assure our all the flat purchasers that we have always work within the regime and have always carried out construction in accordance with law. We are the brand, which is in existence for more than 35 years in the industry and will continue to grow and take care of our flat purchasers with whatever cost it comes out.”