A REPRIEVE FOR CHANDIGARH
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