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SC bans 'apartmentalisation' of residential units in Chandigarh Phase-I

A bench of Justices B R Gavai and B V Nagarathna heard the case and rendered a decision applicable to Phase 1 of Chandigarh which is considered a heritage area, popularly also known as Corbusier Chandigarh.

Representational image

Representational image

The Supreme Court prohibited the "fragmentation" or "apartmentalisation" of residential units in Phase-I of Chandigarh, citing rench architect Le Corbusier, who had designed the city and said it would injure the "lungs" of the city.

The apex court's stress on the need to strike  a proper balance is struck between sustainable development and environmental protection.

A bench of Justices BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna slammed the Chandigarh administration for "blindly sanctioning" the building plans and said it is apparent from them that they are in effect converting one dwelling unit into three apartments.

"Such a haphazard growth may adversely affect the heritage status of Phase­-I of Chandigarh which is sought to be inscribed as a UNESCO's heritage city," the bench said in its 131-page verdict, PTI reported.

Previous verdict by the high court 

The Punjab and Haryana High Court in November 2021 gave a verdict which cited the Capital of Punjab (Development and Regulations) Act, 1952 and said that there was no provision under, or the Rules framed thereunder, governing transfer of shares in relation to a site or building whether owned singly or under joint ownership.

The court had also declared that the sale of shares out of a building or site by the allottee or transferee was not barred.

What the Supreme Court said 

In its verdict, the apex court highlighted the heritage value of Corbusian Chandigarh and said that redensification of the area without the approval of the Chandigarh Heritage Conservation Committee is contrary to the Chandigarh Master Plan (CMP)­ 2031.

Addressing the previous verdict, the Supreme Court bench noted that the high court had said apartmentalisation was not permissible and went on to hold that though developers or builders were in effect indulging in construction of three apartments in a building, the same did not amount to apartmentalisation.

"Having noted the stand of the Chandigarh administration that the construction and floor­-wise sale of residential buildings was not permissible in view of the Rule 16 of the 2007 Rules (Chandigarh Estate Rules 2007), the high court ought to have held that the statutory rules framed under the 1952 Act expressly prohibits fragmentation/ division/ bifurcation/ apartmentalisation of a residential unit in Phase­-I of Chandigarh," the apex court said.

The bench also highlighted the impact of redensification  on the traffic situation in the area. "With the increase in number of dwelling units, a corresponding increase in the vehicles is bound to be there. However, without considering the said aspect, one dwelling unit is permitted to be converted into three apartments," it said.

Chandigarh Master Plan- 2031 

The Chandigarh Master Plan 2031 states that Chandigarh has been planned as a green city with abundance of open space and to ensure that every dwelling has its adequate share of the three elements of sun, space and verdure.

The apex court referred to Rule 16 of the 2007 Rules and said there is a specific bar on fragmentation of sites or buildings and it is the specific stand of the Chandigarh administration that construction of apartments is not permissible.

The Verdict 

The apex court highlighted that while Rule 16 of the 2007 Rules bars  fragmentation of sites or buildings, the 2017 Rules (Chandigarh Building Rules (Urban), 2017) are enacted in such a way that there is scope for the construction of apartments.

The Supreme Court directed the Chandigarh administration to amend the existing rules and also said that the amendments will be placed before the Centre as well.

"We, therefore, find it necessary to direct that after the Chandigarh administration takes decision to amend the provisions, the same shall be placed before the central government for its consideration and final decision," the court said.

Invoking Article 142 of the Constitution, the bench said that it will exercise its powers for protecting the heritage status of Corbusian Chandigarh.

"In that view of the matter, we hold that in view of Rule 14 of the 1960 Rules (Chandigarh (Sale of Sites and Building) Rules 1960), Rule 16 of the 2007 Rules and the repeal of the 2001 Rules (Chandigarh Apartment Rules, 2001), fragmentation/ division/ bifurcation/ apartmentalization of a residential unit in Phase-I of Chandigarh is prohibited," it said.

The bench said the committee would take into consideration its own recommendations that the northern sectors of Chandigarh (Corbusian Chandigarh) should be preserved in their present form.

The Chandigarh administration was also urged by the court to consider amending the CMP-­2031 and the 2017 Rules insofar as they are applicable to phase­-I in accordance with the recommendations of the panel.

The bench said till a final decision is taken by the Centre, the Chandigarh administration shall not sanction any plan of a building which ex-facie appears to be a modus operandi to convert a single dwelling unit into three different apartments occupied by three strangers and no Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or agreement or settlement amongst co­-owners of a residential unit shall be registered nor shall it be enforceable in law for the purpose of bifurcation or division of a single residential unit into floor­wise apartments.

The bench also restricted the Chandigarh administration from formulating rules or by­laws without prior consultation of the committee and prior approval of the Centre.

(With inputs from PTI)
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