MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court, in an interim order on Friday, stayed municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta’s order and restrained the BMC from sanctioning fire refuge areas on the decks of Palais Royale, India’s tallest residential building, at Worli Naka. Hearing a public interest litigation filed by NGO Janhit Manch challenging the commissioner’s August 2016 order, a division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Girish Kulkarni gave the BMC three weeks to file its affidavit in the matter.
The municipal commissioner’s decision was pursuant to an order of the HC in January 2016 which held the 13 upper floors of the 56-storey building as well as a 15-storey public parking tower next to it were “completely illegal”. The developer, Shree Ram Urban Infrastructure Limited (SRUIL), was allowed to apply for fresh commencement and development permission from the BMC for the parking tower, as well as to regularise the 13 floors depending on permissible FSI. The court also asked the municipal commissioner to reconsider the issue of a reasonable refuge area that is to be exempted from the calculation of FSI. The NGO alleged the refuge area constituted over 70% area of the tower, whereas rules permitted around 4%.
Mehta, in his August 2016 order, asked the developer to seal the large refuge areas on the 23rd, 32nd, 42nd and 52nd floors as well as those on each floor outside the flats. The commissioner instead allowed the deck area abutting the balcony of each of the 144 flats to be treated as refuge area for the purpose of calculating FSI. By the commissioner’s calculation, this would reduce the refuge area in the tower to around 23%.
The developer’s lawyers contended in order to prevent the misuse of the sealed refuge areas, a separate agreement would be signed with the flat buyer to ensure these premises would not be later amalgamated with the apartments.
Senior advocate S U Kamdar, counsel for Janhit Manch, said the commissioner’s orders were in violation of the development control regulations (DCR) and the BMC’s policy which provided refuge floors for safety and not individual refuge areas for each flat. According to rules, the fire refuge area in a high-rise has to be provided after 23 metres and then after every 15 metres. “A refuge area is meant to be a common area where residents and occupants of a building congregate in a situation of fire hazard or emergency to be rescued. In case of a fire, the fire-fighting authorities would be required to rescue occupants of the building from 144 different locations,” said the petition. It added the permissions were actually a threat to the life and safety of the occupants of the building.
The SS Kasliwal-promoted SRUIL first proposed construction of the 294-metre tall residential skyscraper in 2005. The plans were finally sanctioned in 2011 and the BMC issued commencement certificate for a residential tower of 43 storeys and a public parking lot up to plinth level. The developer was to get the incentive FSI and permission to construct from 44th floor to 56th floor once they handed over the public parking lot to BMC.
Credits ET Realty