A RE­PRIEVE FOR CHANDIGARH

India Today - - UPFRONT -

It may have saved Chandigarh city from be­ing de­spoiled for­ever. On April 12, the Delhi High Court handed down a 169 page judg­ment set­ting aside clear­ances granted by Pun­jab to Tata Camelot, an over­am­bi­tious high­rise hous­ing pro­ject that would have oblit­er­ated Chandigarh’s ma­jes­tic north­east­ern sky­line of the Lower Hi­malayas.

The Rs 1,800 crore pro­ject was part of a 2007 deal be­tween Tata Hous­ing and a co­op­er­a­tive so­ci­ety of 90 Pun­jab politi­cians. Mem­bers in­cluded for­mer deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, Chhattisgarh gov­er­nor B.D. Tan­don and for­mer Union min­is­ter Pre­neet Kaur. Nine­teen high­rises with 2,100 lux­ury apart­ments were planned on 53.4 acres, al­lot­ted to the MLAs’ so­ci­ety in 2001. For their rel­a­tively pal­try Rs 5 lakh ini­tial in­vest­ment, the Tata deal was to get so­ci­ety mem­bers Rs 82.5 lakh and an apart­ment each.

The Pun­jab and Haryana High Court first stayed the pro­ject in 2011, but later, in Au­gust 2013, cleared Tata Camelot. This was im­me­di­ately chal­lenged in the Supreme Court by Ashok Jagga, who had ear­lier filed a PIL in the high court, and the Sarin Me­mo­rial Le­gal Aid Foun­da­tion.

Now bring­ing things to what most in Chandigarh hope is clo­sure, a Delhi High Court di­vi­sion bench has can­celled the clear­ances given to Tata Camelot, de­cree­ing that the pro­ject is lo­cated within the Sukhna catch­ment area. The or­der also equips the ad­min­is­tra­tion to crack down on other il­le­gal con­struc­tions—posh bun­ga­lows owned mainly by se­nior politi­cians and bu­reau­crats—in the Sukhna catch­ment. It’s also cer­tain to scare off builders and spec­u­la­tors who’d re­port­edly struck deals for much of the pri­vately held land ad­ja­cent to the Camelot hold­ing.

NA­TURE’S SWAY Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh

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