‘Homebuyers more aware’
Another good Samaritan campaigning for the environment is Amit Kumar, a school teacher by profession, who questioned the logic behind constructing residential apartments within a 10-km radius of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary. Following Kumar’s complaint the National Green Tribunal gave orders prohibiting the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority ( Noida) from giving completion certificates to housing projects falling within a 10-km radius of the Sanctuary.
“Such constructions were being carried out ille gally without obtaining the required approval from the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL),” says Kumar’s lawyer, Gaurav Kumar Bansal, who claims to have appeared pro bono for the case. “Since the government showed little concern for environmental laws and failed to take care of the sanctuary, the applicant had to move court,” he adds.
Eventually, the homebuyers, the common people, were the ones to suffer the most. Had the builders and the authority taken clearances from the environment ministry for the projects this problem might not have arisen. The ball right now is in the ministry’s court as it has to notify the 100 m buffer zone proposed by the UP government before completion certificates are finally handed over.
There are many issues that this case has raised. One, public perception has undergone a change. Earlier, people would simply look at an advertisement and blindly book an apartment. Now homebuyers question builders, ask for environment and fire department clearances, adds Bansal.
A case which could have changed the game for home buyers, relates to Jyoti Swaroop Arora, a consumer, who had complained of alleged collusion between realtors associated with the Credai. Anti-trust watchdog Competition Commission of India had then expanded the scope of the complaint to include around 20 developers and found that their actions indicated a “one- follows- the- other” phenomenon which could not have meant independent action by the builders and that there was no evidence that Credai allowed these companies to fix prices.
Had Arora gone for an appeal or i f t he matter had been referred to a higher court, it could have been a game-changer, says MM Sharma, head of competition law and policy, Vaish Associates Advocates.