Building design: who is accountable?
Fixing liability difficult in India if architects are from other countries
According to renowned Indian architects, services offered by foreign architects to Indian real estate companies lead to serious issues of liability or responsibility towards the Indian entity. The reason for restricting foreign architectural firms by making a legal provision in the Architects Act of 1972 is because it would be very difficult to fix liabilities in case of any fault in buildings that could endanger lives. Besides this, structural and other safety issues also need to be looked into.
According to Anil Sharma, a Delhi-based architect, “An architect’s job is not limited to drawing the design of the project on paper and getting it approved by the authority. He is fully involved from the time he makes the initial design to its execution, completion and handing over of apartments to homebuyers. Not only that, even 10 years later, in case of any fault in the building, it is the liability of the architect. He is also duty bound to check contractors or structural engineers in his project from deviating from the original plans.”
“Unfortunately, t hese foreign architects are only selling their designs to real estate developers who have employed junior architects to oversee day-to-day work. So some international architects are neither endorsing their own designs before the development authorities nor are they involved in day-to-day inspections,” Sharma adds.
According to building bylaws in the country, the architect for any project has to sign off the drawings submitted to the sanctioning authority. Supervision certificate during construction and drawings after the completition of the project have to be submitted with the sanctioning authority.
Many Indian architects also allege that designs by foreign architects do not work in Indian conditions. “Their aim is to make the buildings look like ‘foreign buildings’, and not to encourage any local innovation,” says Pradeep Mishra, architect and town planner.
Experts suggest that there needs to be more outreach by the Council of Architecture (CoA) and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. “The CoA needs to process cases of misconduct against the Indian architects who aid and abet in this practice. Also, customers must be educated about the fact that they are being shortchanged only by the developers’ advertisements,” suggests Sudhir Vohra, a wellknown architect.
“If any other person is projected or advertised as the architect of the project then this is a fraud and the builder or developer should be booked by the authorities under section 420 of CrPC. The authorities should immediately cancel the sanction plan and advise the builder/ developer to submit fresh drawings duly signed by the registered architect,” says Ashok Goel, architect.