Bhaskar Bhattacharya, C.J. -
(1.) BY this Public Interest Litigation, the petitioner, one Tejendra J. Tambe, claiming to a public -spirited person, has drawn the attention of this Court to various illegalities in the matter of allotment of flats which were constructed for financially weaker sections of the society by Vadodra Urban Development Authority [VUDA, hereafter] constituted by the State of Gujarat.
(2.) THE case made out by the petitioner may be summed up thus:
[a]. Government of Gujarat had acquired two distinct pieces of land for development of economical houses for financially weaker sections of the Society called as "Madhavnagar" and "Keshavnagar" in Atladra, Vadodara.
[b]. After purchase and acquisition of the land by Government of Gujarat, the development and construction contract was awarded to VUDA established by Government of Gujarat under section 22 of the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976. VUDA has further contracted builders/developers/architects to develop schemes of 458 apartments in Madhavnagar development area and 266 apartments in Keshavnagar development area according to structural design and engineering by VUDA and in association with other related Government and private agencies.
[c]. As per verbal information received from the current occupants, approximate construction and development cost was Rs. 5 Crores for 724 houses [excluding the price of the land purchased and acquired by the Government] for both the projects, and thus each house cost Rs. 70,000/ - in the year 2001.]
[d]. The above information was based on estimate and reasonable prevailing market rate of construction, viz. Rs. 450/ - per sq. mtr. of good quality immovable property in the year 2001.
[e]. The above scheme was designed for the benefit of financially weaker sections of the society by the public authority, VUDA.
[f]. Each flat consists of one room, kitchen, bathroom and toilet and the total carpet area is 161 sq. ft., which would be sufficient to accommodate three persons, viz. husband, wife and a child.
[g]. Thus, the object of the Scheme was to provide cost efficient housing and residential arrangement on long terms lease basis for welfare of financially weaker section of the Society.
[g]. Madhavnagar Scheme was ready in the year 2001 and occupancy right was given in the year 2002 by VUDA to some purchasers; similarly, the occupancy right was given to the general public in Keshavnagar from the year 2006 onwards.
[h]. In both the housing schemes, many houses were illegally allotted by VUDA to relatives and associates of some public servants with good political influence, who were not from the financially weaker section of the Society.
[i]. In the year 2006, VUDA decided to give the rest of the vacant houses for benefit of needy economically weaker sections of public at old rates of the year 2001 and low monthly rents with the help of government subsidy. The reason for delay of 6 years in lawful disposal of constructed houses was never clarified or informed to general public by AUDA.
[j]. Around 724 families were living in these houses of Madhavnagar and Keshavnagar, and out of 724, around 30% current occupants were bonafide purchasers from financially weaker sections of the Society, who were paying the regular monthly instalments to VUDA.
[k]. The remaining, around 70% current occupants are tenants also from financially weaker section of the Society, who were paying illegal rents and profits to these government owned properties to VUDA agents who are illegal purchasers.
[l]. The current occupants made several complaints to VUDA regarding poor construction but VUDA denied for repairs and maintenance of the premises.
[m]. Two buildings collapsed in the early morning around 4 a.m. on 28th August 2013 and 11 innocent people, who were occupants of the collapsed buildings, died.
[n]. Some teams of technical experts have informed and advised the disturbed homeless occupants to look for another house on rent because construction and structure of all the remaining buildings also were not suitable for living and occupancy and may collapse at any time due to poor construction by the contractor appointed by VUDA.
[o]. The State Government has also not taken any action to secure the shelter of the homeless families belonging to financially weaker section till the date of filing of the petition.
Hence this petition.
The original petitioner, party -in -person, subsequently informed this Court that as he is going out of India, it was not possible for him to continue with this litigation. Since this Court had already entertained the application directing the respondents to file affidavit, this Court permitted the petitioner -party -in -person to retire and appointed Mr. A.S. Supehia, a learned advocate of this Court, as amicus curiae to proceed with this matter.
(3.) THIS writ -application was opposed by the respondent No. 2, VUDA, by filing affidavit, and their stance may be summed up thus: -
[a]. VUDA is a statutory body duly constituted under the provisions of Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976 and is under administrative control and supervision of the Government of Gujarat.
[B]. VUDA decided to put up construction of 458 Residential Units for economically weaker section of the Section on revenue survey No. 48 of Village Atladara, Taluka & District Vadodara in the year 1999.
[C]. Thus, two schemes, known as "Madhavnagar", and 'Keshavnagar" were floated for economically weaker section of the Society and in all 266 residential units were to be constructed on revenue survey No. 11 and 14 of Village Atladara.
[D]. VUDA appointed M/s. Antrix Architect for the architectural and structural work of the said Schemes and work order was issued on 13th August 1999.
[E]. M/s. Antrix Architect was entrusted the architectural and structural design work and the said firm appointed M/s. Kantharia & Padaria Associates for carrying out the structural design work.
[F]. The plans and lay outs were got approved by M/s. Antrix Architect from Vadodara Municipal Corporation as the land in question was within the territorial jurisdiction of Vadodara Municipal Corporation.
[G]. Thereafter, tenders were invited through an advertisement dated 13th September 1999 issued by VUDA for construction of residential units of the Scheme known as "Madhavnagar" which consisted of 33 blocks and in all 458 residential flats for economically weaker section of the Society and the built up area of each of the flat was of 22.5 sq. meters.
[H]. In response to the said advertisement dated 13th September 1999, in all four tenders were received out of which the tender of M/s. Mr. K.R. Makwana & Associates was accepted as it was the lowest one.
[I]. Work order was issued on 17th January 2000 and subsequent to the completion of the work, a completion certificate was obtained from Vadodara Municipal Corporation by Ms/s. Antrix Architect of behalf of VUDA.
[J]. Applications from the eligible members of economically weaker section were invited by the Authority for allotment of residential units at Rs. 62,500/ - per each unit. As per the Scheme, a beneficiary was to pay Rs. 22,500/ - at the time of allotment and a loan of Rs. 35,000/ - per unit was to be made available by National Housing Bank and the same was to be repaid through 156 equal monthly installments of Rs. 362/ -. The State Government had provided a subsidy of Rs. 5,000/ - per residential unit.
[K]. Computerized draw for allotment of residential units to the applicants was held by VUDA and the successful applicants were allotted the residential units. The procedure followed for allotment to the members of economically weaker section was as per the guidelines laid down by the State Government.
[L]. So far as the water supply lines were concerned, an additional amount of Rs. 69.81 lakh was to be spent and out of Rs. 34.91 lakh were deposited by VUDA in the office of Vadodara Municipal Corporation towards expenses. Rest of the expenses were borne by Vadodara Municipal Corporation. The respondent No. 2 authority also spent an additional amount of Rs. 16 lakh for drainage lines for the beneficiaries of the Scheme. The additional amount of Rs. 13,183/ - per residential unit was spent out of VUDA's own funds and it was never recovered from the beneficiaries.
[M]. In an unfortunate event, two Blocks bearing No. 10 & 11 collapsed on 28th August 2013 resulting into death of 11 individuals. Immediately thereafter, the Government of Gujarat declared an ex -gratia payment of Rs. 2,00,000/ - to the family members of the deceased residents. The respondent No. 1 also appointed Inquiry Commission headed by former Chief Secretary for inquiry.
[N]. Immediately after collapse of two Blocks, it was thought fit to shift all the residents of entire "Madhavnagar" Colony to "Renvasera" of Vadodara Municipal Corporation situated at Village Atladara for their safety and security. It was open to all to shift to the said shelter where other facilities including food were provided by Vadodara Municipal Corporation. VUDA has paid an amount of Rs. 10,00,000/ - to Vadodara Municipal Corporation for the said facilities for a period commencing from 30th August 2013 to 22nd September 2013.
[O]. During the inquiry held by High Level Commission, Senior Officers of Design Circle of Roads & Buildings Department submitted a technical report to the effect that the residential blocks of "Madhavnagar" Colony were not safe for residential use considering the nature of soil, high water table and faulty structural design.
[P]. Considering the said report, as another Scheme known as "Keshavnagar" was also designed by the same Architect, it was thought fit to obtain a report qua the said Scheme also from M/s. GEO Test House duly appointed by VUDA as Structural Design Experts.
[Q]. It is reported by the said Experts that though there was no damage to the residential units of "Keshavnagar" Colony, the structural design was identical to that of "Madhavnagar" Colony and as the said structural design was defective, the residential units were not safe. It was also opined to pull down the said Blocks in the interest of residents.
[R]. In view of the said report, VUDA immediately convinced the residents on 1st September 2013 to vacate the properties and shift to the residential Tents put up by VUDA in the open space of "Keshavnagar" colony. Accordingly, approximately 250 residents have shifted to the said Tents and the expenses qua food were borne by VUDA. Slowly and gradually all of them have shifted to the places of their choice and at present nobody is occupying the said Tents.
[S]. VUDA thought fit to take immediate alternative measure as all the Blocks of "Madhavnagar" as well as "Keshavnagar" Scheme were to be pulled down. It is submitted that accordingly the Board Members of Vadodara Urban Development Authority have passed a Resolution in its meeting dated 30th October 2013 to put up a new construction of residential units for in all 724 beneficiaries. It is also resolved that each of the residential units would be having built up area of 25 sq. meters against 22.5 sq. meters. The new construction is to be of RCC frame construction instead of load bearing system and the residential units are to be provided free of cost to the beneficiaries.
[T]. Tenders were invited by the Authority by way of publishing an advertisement in the newspapers of 8th November 2013. The construction is to be carried out by the Contractor within a period of 14 months from issuance of work order and execution of work is to be supervised by a Private Project Management Consultant and to be inspected by a third party. There was a defect liability period of 10 years and the life span of the structure is approximately 50 years. In other words, necessary corrective measures were taken promptly by the respondent authorities. The allottees of "Madhavnagar" and "Keshavnagar" Schemes have submitted their Memorandum accepting the said Resolution of the Board Members of VUDA.
[U]. The High Level Commission completed the inquiry and submitted a report to the Government of Gujarat for further action. Immediately after the mishap on 28th August 2013, a First Information Report was lodged at Makarpura Police Station in the city of Vadodara and thereafter, Police has arrested the Contractor Mr. K.R. Makwana and Structural Engineer Mr. Bupendra Padaria as well as Supervisor Mr. B.D. Tamboli and all of them are in police custody since their arrest.
[V]. The Schemes were meant for the members of economically weaker section and the applications were invited from the eligible citizens by way of publishing advertisements in the newspapers. The income criteria, mode of allotment, method of payment etc. were determined as per the policy of the State Government. VUDA being a limb of State Government, has followed the policy of the State Government in true letter and spirit.
[W]. A computerized draw was arranged and the successful applicants were allotted the residential units and even Sale Deeds were also executed at the relevant point of time between VUDA and the successful applicants/allottees.
[X]. VUDA has a complete list of allottees pursuant to computerized draw for the residential units of the said two Colonies apart from the copies of registered Sale Deeds. The ownership of the residential units were of the allottees subsequent to registered Sale Deeds executed between the Authority and the said allottees. Subsequent to collapse of two Blocks of "Madhavnagar" and shifting the residents from both the Schemes, not a single occupant has so far come forward for any lease deed for the benefits available. It was, therefore, decided to form a Committee headed by the Chief Executive Authority for fresh allotment to the beneficiaries.
[Y]. As the residential blocks were constructed and allotted on outright sale basis to the beneficiaries, it was not the responsibility of VUDA to repair and maintain the same and therefore, the contentions raised by the petitioner that the same ought to have been repaired and maintained by the Authority is without any basis.;