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One of Worli's larger residential compounds, the Campa Cola Compound has been home to around 230 families for over 25 years. Most of its residents though have now lost all hope of continuing to live in their homes they bought with their life savings.

For those not in the know, the Campa Cola Compound grabbed headlines earlier this year when the residents, after a long legal battle, lost their fight in the Supreme Court, to save their homes that remained illegal due to many violations by the builders.

Many commentators have pointed out that this is not a lone case; rather Mumbai's housing scene is replete with illegal residential structures erected by builders, who violate construction norms and sell illegal flats to unsuspecting or susceptible buyers.

The Campa Cola Compound case is a product of a nexus that flourishes due to ineptitude and corruption on the part of municipal corporation, builders and politicians. And buyers have had to pay a heavy price for lack of due diligence.

Case background

The Campa Cola buildings were build on land leased to Pure Drinks Ltd in 1955 by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), who in 1980 allowed the company to develop it for residential purposes. A group of three builders were commissioned to construct homes on a part of the plot, now known as the Campa Cola Compound. Between 1984 and 1989, the builders constructed 35 additional floors without approval from the BMC, who eventually did not issue the Occupation Certificate (OC) to those flats. The builders, however, sold the illegally constructed flats and assured that the OC will be granted in due course.

Impact on residents

In a city where housing is so expensive, the thought of a permanent roof on their heads at rates lesser than the market value was a very attractive preposition. So much so, that many buyers failed to look into the approval status of the construction or they did but ignored it. Occupants believed that approvals would come in due course. 

As these homes didn't have an OC, residents had no BMC water connection, and made do with tanker water. A decade later, when the residents approached the court to direct the BMC to give them a water connection, the structures illegality came to light. A court order for appropriate action against the violations was followed by a demolition notice by the BMC served about a decade ago.

Since then, residents have been fighting to save their homes, but recently lost their final battle in the Supreme Court. As of now, the BMC has disconnected basic utilities and residents have shifted out their belongings from the illegal flats.

Who is to be blamed in this issue?

The builders, who violated the norms; BMC for sitting on the files for so many years; and the occupants who bought the flats despite knowing that they were unapproved.

How can the flats be saved?

The State Government can intervene and issue an ordinance in favour of the residents. An ordinance is a law enacted by the municipal corporation with regards to public safety, health and general welfare. The Chief Minister though has ruled out such an option, but is ready to rehabilitate them.

How can one avoid Campa Cola's fate?

One should check credentials of the developer. In the beginning, the project must have an approved plan and a Commencement Certificate (CC), and on completion, the project must have an Occupation Certificate (OC). The buyer should ask for copies of relevant papers from the developers. Don't hesitate to consult a professional to verify the legality of a project.