Infrastructure development is a booming economic layout in India and investors have ample opportunities here. However, in a wild race for so-called “skyscraper development”,  there are many cases in the high-rise building construction process where fire safety norms are not complied with. The high rise – Palais Royale in Worli, Mumbai is a prime example of monstrous abuse of power and available resources wherein the fire safety norms have been thrown out of the window and the only thing that matters for the developers is commercial gain.

Palais Royale is a skyscraper being built at Worli Naka, Lower Parel Mumbai and is being touted as Indian tallest high rise.

The reality score of this “high-rise’ is not so high, actually. The whole project is rooted in the criminal nexus of builders, BMC officials and the bureaucratic power-corridors, for whom nothing matters apart from but illegally hoarding money.

Construction of Palais Royale at Worli was halted three years ago as the refuge area allotted to the builder, Shree Ram Urban Infrastructure Ltd. exceeded the limit of four percent of its total area. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation brought the matter to the High Court where a division bench upheld the decision until further investigation. Here are the salient features of this particular case:

  • Palais Royale, promoted by the famous Oswal family, is one of the most expensive properties in Mumbai, duplex flats are priced between Rs 70 to 80 crore.
  • Apartment sizes vary from 4,000 to 14,000 sq ft.
  • It consists of 56 storeys of which 13 are considered illegally built and may have to be demolished if the court rules as such.
  • It’s 15 storey parking lot is also deemed illegal by the court as the developer has used it to construct illegal floors.
  • The bone of contention in this case, the refuge area exempt from FSI, has been built up and included in carpet area.
  • The developer challenged the order and asked that areas like refuge areas, passages, swimming pools which were exempted from the FSI, now be included as part of it.
  • However, the Municipal Commissioner has directed the developer to reduce the building’s refuge area FSI from the current 70% of the total construction to just 4%.
  • The NGO Janhit Manch has filed a PIL concerning the many violations of the construction which include the refuge area where residents can take shelter in the event of a fire.

While the initial violations were brought to the court’s notice by ex-municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte, the division bench has ordered Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta to inspect the refuge area and submit a report about the permissible area. Mr. Mehta has visited the property and carried out the necessary inspection. While everyone concerned waits for him to submit his report and for the bench to rule, a few outcomes are expected. These include the developer finally being able to commence construction after possibly demolishing the 13 illegal floors and applying for a fresh commencement certificate to regularize both wings of the property.

The whole scam called Palais Royale brings into sharp focus the desire of developers to try and build as many amenities into the space they have so as to be able to demand premium prices. The fact that these come by skirting regulations and after blatant violations are largely ignored. Citizen awareness led by NGOs like Janhit Manch are essential to ensuring watchdogs like Municipal commissioners hold developers accountable when they flout rules. Home buyers themselves should be more vigilant about the updates they receive from developers during the various key stages of construction and raise questions when they notice irregularities. In the largely regularized nexus of builders and authorities, awareness about the existing regulations and far-sighted approach can ensure the safety of the buyers.