FOR­EIGN

De­vel­op­ers flaunt­ing names of for­eign ar­chi­tects to sell hous­ing projects could be vi­o­lat­ing le­gal norms

HT Estates - - NEWS - Jee­van Prakash Sharma

The love of In­di­ans for all things for­eign is well known – and most real es­tate de­vel­op­ers know it and take ad­van­tage of this fact. That is why many of them have been ad­ver­tis­ing their res­i­den­tial projects as be­ing de­signed by ar­chi­tects of in­ter­na­tional re­pute, giv­ing buy­ers the im­pres­sion, thereby, that for­eign col­lab­o­ra­tions mean apart­ments of in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and bet­ter value.

How­ever, by do­ing so, real es­tate de­vel­op­ers could be vi­o­lat­ing a le­gal pro­vi­sion, ie, Sec­tion 37 of The Ar­chi­tects Act, 1972, which pro­hibits a for­eign ar­chi­tect from work­ing in In­dia with­out the permission of the Cen­tral gov­ern­ment.

That’s not all , i n some cases, ar­chi­tects from abroad are email­ing their de­signs to builders which are en­dorsed and signed off by their In­dian coun­ter­parts who are then rep­re­sented as ac­tual de­sign­ers of the project to get ap­provals from de­vel­op­ment au­thor­i­ties. In other cases, while In­dian ar­chi­tects fi­nalise project de­signs for a builder, for­eign ar­chi­tects al­low use of their brand (for a hefty pay­ment) for ad­ver­tis­ing the project as one of in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

Wit­ness­ing many cases, the Coun­cil of Ar­chi­tec­ture (CoA), the reg­u­la­tory body for ar­chi­tects in In­dia, re­cently pub­lished a pu­bic no­tice in lead­ing news­pa­pers, which said “The CoA is re­ceiv­ing com­plaints re­gard­ing the vi­o­la­tion of the (ar­chi­tects) Act by for­eign ar­chi­tects/con­sult­ing firms/ In­dian ar­chi­tects/real es­tate de­vel­op­ers and oth­ers by hiring for­eign ar­chi­tects to ren­der ar­chi­tec­tural ser­vices with­out fol­low­ing due pro­ce­dure pre­scribed un­der pro­viso (b) sec­tion 37 ( 1) of the Ar­chi­tects Act, 1972.” It adds: “It is also no­ticed that In­dian Ar­chi­tects (as de­fined un­der the Act) have been work­ing as lo­cal /sign­ing/ li­ai­son ar­chi­tects for projects which have been or are be­ing de­signed by for­eign ar­chi­tects with­out en­sur­ing com­pli­ance of the pro­vi­sions of the Act.”

HT Es­tates con­nected with many de­vel­op­ers ad­ver­tis­ing projects de­signed by for­eign ar­chi­tects. In the case of Su­pertech’s am­bi­tious project, Su­per­nova, in Sec­tor 94 Noida, it has been claimed in many ad­ver­tise­ments that the project’s ar­chi­tec­tural draw­ings have been done by renowned Bri­tish ar­chi­tect Benoy, which also ac­knowl­edges the fact on its web­site. How­ever, RK Arora, CMD Su­pertech, did not of­fer any com­ments when asked if the agree­ment had been done in vi­o­la­tion of the Ar­chi­tects Act.

Tata Hous­ing, cam­paign­ing for its res­i­den­tial project Myst, claims it has been “de­signed by renowned ar­chi­tect Llewe­lyn Yeang.” When asked if the com­pany had sought the Cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s permission to get the pro­fes­sional ser­vices a for­eign ar­chi­tect, a spokesper­son said: “Llewe­lyn Yeang has

to re­main vul­ner­a­ble to un­cer­tain­ties, and this makes In­dia’s po­si­tion more lu­cra­tive. The rul­ing gov­ern­ment’s ac­tion in ad­dress­ing con­cer ns of stake­hold­ers through re­forms (in the Land Acquisition Act, the Real Es­tate Reg­u­la­tory bill, re­lax­ation of FDI rules, etc.) is help­ing sen­ti­ments in the realty space.

Ac­cord­ing to data col­lated by VCCEdge, 68 real es­tate deals worth US$ 1.84 bil­lion were made in 2014 as against 45 deals worth US$ 1.29 bil­lion in 2013. Lead­ing fund houses such as Brook­field, Black­stone, Xan­der and KKR were all ac­tive dur­ing the year. Year 2014 was largely seen as a warm-up for a larger game-plan for 2015.

Real es­tate ex­perts are es­ti­mat­ing over US$2 bil­lion worth of for­eign funds to flow into

Athe In­dian realty mar­ket in the cur­rent year.

In­ject­ing funds

Mar­ket sen­ti­ment re­lat­ing to real es­tate moved from sub­dued in the first half of 2014 to a phase where global in­vestors were seen firm­ing up plans to in­ject funds into In­dia. Fund rais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties picked up, and this mo­men­tum is likely to con­tinue in 2015. The mar­ket has be­gun show­ing signs of tran­si­tion from one-way in­vest­ments to­wards an in­crease in in­vestor-de­vel­oper part­ner­ships. Joint ven­ture and club fund­ing is gain­ing pref­er­ence in In­dia, and in­vestors are likely to look be­yond Mum­bai, Ban­ga­lore and NCR – for de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

As a re­sult, we will see Grade- A com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties in tier-II and tier-III cities ben­e­fit­ing. At­trac­tively-priced and well­lo­cated of­fice spa­ces, along with mid and up­per-mid cat­e­gory res­i­den­tial projects, will con­tinue to lure in­vest­ments in 2015. De­spite im­prove­ments in leas­ing across malls, re­tail as a sec­tor is likely to lag be­hind in at­tract­ing large in­vestors, al­though the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor could pick up. Open­ing of REITs as a pos­si­ble route for in­vest­ing in real es­tate will help de­crease the pres­sure on cash­starved de­vel­op­ers. How­ever, the list­ing of new REITs will be slow and steady. REITs would likely suc­ceed over the medium term, but they need to suc­cess­fully pass through a chal­leng­ing phase of adap­ta­tion over the next two years. only pro­vided guide­lines for the mas­ter plan; whereas we work with CPK, a re­puted In­dian ar­chi­tec­tural firm and all ar­chi­tec­tural ser­vices as de­fined in the 1972 Ar­chi­tects Act by Coun­cil of Ar­chi­tec­ture In­dia were un­der­taken by them.”

Delhi- based veteran ar­chi­tect Ashok Goel says he finds it “strange that Tata Hous­ing is not us­ing the name of CPK in its ad­ver­tise­ments be­cause it’s an In­dian firm. On the other hand, a West­ern com­pany which has just done the mas­ter plan­ning, as claimed by the com­pany, has been given a lot of im­por­tance.”

Some de­vel­op­ers de­nied hiring in­ter­na­tional firms to design projects. When asked about their as­so­ci­a­tion with Dubai- based fir m Arabtec, a spokesper­son for Delhi-based Ra­heja De­vel­op­ers clar­i­fied that Arabtec was only han­dling Ra­heja’s res­i­den­tial project Re­vanta’s con­struc­tion work and t hat t he ar­chi­tec­tural design had been done by in­house In­dian ar­chi­tects.

In case of Jaypee As­so­ciates, which launched two town­ships i n Greater Noida ( Jaypee Greens) and Noida (Wish­town) in 2000 and Novem­ber 2007, re­spec­tively, t he com­pany claimed that the ar­chi­tec­tural de­signs had been done by Ar­cop, an In­dian ar­chi­tec­tural firm. How­ever, the reg­u­la­tor, CoA, has filed a crim­i­nal com­plaint against the com­pany for vi­o­lat­ing the Ar­chi­tects Act 1972. “We are very much an In­dian com­pany and we strongly ob­ject to any such al­le­ga­tions which doubt our In­dian sta­tus. In fact, we have filed a case against the reg­u­la­tor for ma­lign­ing our rep­u­ta­tion,” says San­jay Sharma, direc­tor, Ar­cop As­so­ciates.

Go­drej Prop­er­ties, which has claimed that one of its projects in Mum­bai has been de­signed by DP Ar­chi­tects from Sin­ga­pore, de­fends its de­ci­sion, with a com­pany spokesper­son say­ing, “There is no le­gal re­stric­tion on for­eign ar­chi­tects pro­vid­ing con­sul­tancy and the com­pany is to­tally in com­pli­ance with all laws. The com­pany works ex­ten­sively with both In­dian and in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers.”

Ex­perts say that it is the duty of the de­vel­op­ment au­thor­i­ties to ask the de­vel­op­ers why they have sub­mit­ted de­signs signed by In­dian ar­chi­tects and are claim­ing in ad­ver­tise­ments that for­eign ar­chi­tects have de­signed their projects.

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