Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, April 12
Tata Camelot’s ambitions plans of raising skyscrapers in the vicinity of Sukhna Lake took a direct hit today with the Delhi High Court ruling that the project fell in the catchment area of the lake.
The ruling has placed the project in a precarious situation. Taking up the Save Sukhna case, the Punjab and High Court has already directed the states of Punjab and Haryana, along with the Chandigarh Administration, not just to stop construction activity in the catchment area, but also to demolish without notice any construction carried out against the High Court mandate.
The project in Kansal village, about 2 km from Sukhna Lake, was to be set up at an estimated cost of Rs 1,800 crore on 53.39 acres, including 42.29 acre residential area and 11.1 acre commercial area. The size of the apartments was to vary between 1,294 sq ft and 7,450 sq ft.
Punjab MLAs — both former and present — had virtually laid the foundation for Camelot’s large-scale scheme. The partnership between the legislators and the business giant was entered into almost a decade ago with an eye on possible windfall from the realty sector.
The Punjab MLAs’ Cooperative House Building Society with nearly 100 members, including former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Governor of Chhattisgarh Balramji Dass Tandon, was formed way back in 2000-01 by pooling in Rs 5 lakh each. The members were each entitled to a 500 sq yard plot.
This was before they entered into a pact with Tata. Every MLA was to get Rs 82.5 lakh and a flat each in lieu of their plot, as per the agreement with Tata. The Delhi High Court, during the course of the hearing, was told that the legislators, who were the beneficiaries, were also the decision takers as far as the project was concerned.
Their plans were practically razed to the ground, with the project initially coming under the Punjab and Haryana High Court scanner. The total amount received by each MLA did not exceed Rs 30 lakh, and the flats were never handed over.
The matter was initially brought to the notice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court through a newspaper report saying nine residential towers between 12 and 35 storeys would dot the city’s skyline, once construction commenced in the vicinity of the Capitol Complex.
Taking suo motu cognisance in November 2010, the High Court observed that the development revealed a “disturbing state of rapid and unregulated urbanisation”. A petition was also filed in public interest before the High Court here by advocate Aalok Jagga through counsel DS Patwalia.
Set up in 1995 for the protection of environment and other social and legal causes, the Sarin Memorial Legal Aid Foundation had sought permission to assist the court in the matter. The Foundation’s Board of Trustees comprises a former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, Justice SS Sodhi, senior advocate ML Sarin, Y Saboo, Jagesh Khaitan, Sushil Goenka and Anupam Kher.
On August 21, 2013, the High Court virtually gave the green signal to the project, subject to necessary clearances from the authorities concerned. The Bench made it clear that the orders prohibiting construction activity in the catchment area of the lake were not applicable to the project.
Justice Sodhi and 16 other petitioners subsequently moved the Supreme Court against the proposed construction of 1,794 residential flats as a part of the Camelot project, while challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s August 2013 order.
The apex court then set aside the order before asking the Delhi High Court to go into the issue afresh and decide whether the project fell in the catchment area of Sukhna Lake.
The case was transferred to Delhi in view of a specific order passed by the then Chief Justice of India while taking up an SLP challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s August 2013 order.
Of the 90 MLAs, 70 were from the SAD and 20 from the Congress. Eight MLAs were ministers in the previous SAD-BJP government. The prominent members included Manoranjan Kalia, Bibi Jagir Kaur, former Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha Charanjit Singh Atwal and Congress MP Preneet Kaur. The Tribune was the first to carry the complete list. The others included then Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha Nirmal Singh Kahlon, then Deputy Speaker Satpal Gosain, Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, Balwinder Singh Bhundar, Sher Singh, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Avinash Rai Khanna, Santosh Chowdhary, Dr Upinderjit Kaur, Master Mohan Lal, Gulzar Singh Ranike, Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Parminder Singh Dhindsa, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Sewa Singh Sekhwan, Sucha Singh Langah, Swarna Ram and Tikshan Sood. The society, in June 2011, terminated its agreement to jointly develop the land.
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