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The Supreme Court has made it mandatory for developers to display the sanction plan at the site of the proposed project.
The Bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and Sanjay Kishan Kaul delivered this judgment in the case of Ferani Hotels Pvt. Ltd. v. the State Information Commissioner Greater Mumbai & Ors which raised the issue of disclosure under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) of plans submitted by developers to the public authorities.
The application seeking the disclosure of sanction plan by developers was filed by Nusli Wadia (respondent) against Ferani Hotels (Ferani/ appellant).
The Bench taking note of the rampant violations by developers and its consequences, interpreted Section 11(3) of Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA) to issue guidelines for “display of such sanction plan/layout plans at the site, apart from any other manner provided by the Regulations made by the Authority”.
Nusli Wadia was represented by Senior Counsel Gourab Banerji assisted by a team of lawyers from Karanjawala & Co. comprising advocates Nandini Gore, Natasha Sahrawat, Tahira Karanjawala, Khushboo Bari, Arjun Sharma, Mandeep Kalra, and Jasvir Singh Sabharwal. Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the appellant, Ferani.
Nusli Neville Wadia, the sole administrator of the estate and effects of late EF Dinshaw, entered into a Development Agreement in 1995 with the appellant, Ferani Hotels Private Limited for carrying out the development on three plots of land. A power of attorney was also executed by Wadia in favour of Ferani.
However, disputes arose between the parties in 2008 and Wadia terminated the power of attorney and Development agreement.
Wadia preferred an application in December 2012 under Section 6(1) of the RTI Act seeking certified copies of all PR cards, plans and amendments therein submitted by Ferani Hotels, all Layouts, Sub-Division Plans and amendments to it from time to time, development plans and reports submitted to the Municipal Commissioner and his approvals on the same in relation to the aforesaid plots.
While the PIO and the First Appellate Authority refused to divulge all the information sought and allowed the application only partly, the State Information Commission allowed the application in full and reasoned that the development of property concerns public interest.
Aggrieved by this order, the appellant filed a writ petition in Bombay High Court which was dismissed with the High Court holding that the information sought in the application was part of public record and had to be revealed in public interest.
Aggrieved by the High Court order, the appellant approached the Supreme Court.
The Court found that the information sought did not fall under the ambit of trade secrets or commercial confidence and was in fact required to be in public domain under RERA.
Further, it was also stated that in order to make builders and developers accountable to the public, these documents need to be put in the public domain and do not constitute “personal information.”
“These are documents filed before public authorities, required to be put in public domain, by the provisions of the Maharashtra Act and the RERA, and involves a public element of making builders accountable to one and all.”
The Court held that keeping in mind the provisions and objective of RERA, it is mandatory for developers to display the sanction plans at the site. The Court further held that keeping in mind the “rampant violations” by the developers, it would be advisable to issue directions in this order and for this direction to be given publicity as part of enforcement of RERA.
“we would like to say that keeping in mind the provisions of RERA and their objective, the developer should mandatorily display at the site the sanction plan. The provision of sub-section (3) of Section 11 of the RERA require the sanction plan/layout plans along with specifications, approved by the competent authority, to be displayed at the site or such other places, as may be specified by the Regulations made by the Authority.”
The Court found no merit in the appeal and thus dismissed this appeal imposing costs worth Rs 2.50 lakh to be paid by the appellant to Nusli Wadia.
Read the Judgment: