The Committee deliberated upon the procedures for grant of building plan approvals and completion certificates, including the role of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission therein. The consensus of opinion was that the present procedures involving a multiplicity of authorities were resulting in considerable harassment and delays. The present procedures of scrutiny of building plans, issue of C & D forms and completion certificate are very cumbersome, involving delays at each stage due to site inspections and site reports. Furthermore, there was no single person specifically responsible for adherence to regulations at the approval or completion stage, resulting in owners – with the connivance of building officials and unscrupulous architects – indulged in violations for financial advantage while honest owners are harassed.
The functioning of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission has also been garnering attention. While the architects complain about delays in DUAC, the DUAC has been complaining that buildings get constructed in contravention of its approvals. There has been a talk of giving inspecting powers to DUAC which would mean another agency involved in the approval process.
Architects to be made responsible
The Indian Institute of Architects, Northern Chapter, and the Guild of Practicing Architects proposed that the architect of the project should be made accountable for adherence to the regulations, both at the planning and the completion stage. They contended that by making the profession responsible, considerable discipline in regard to adherence to building regulations and DUAC directives can be brought about. If the architect violates any of the bylaws or DUAC directives, apart from such action as the city authorities may take against the project and the owner, they can report against the architect to the Council of Architecture for disciplinary action and cancellation of his registration.
The Committee felt that there was considerable force in the above argument. In most developed counties, the architects are fully responsible for their buildings and face serious consequences, including legal action for professional malpractice in case of defaults. A view was expressed that the architects in India will not be prepared to accept their responsibility. It was stated that a similar scheme was introduced by DDA in 1978 but no architect came forward to accept responsibility for his project.
The Committee felt that the reforms attempted so far were partial, and no attempt was made to evolve a comprehensive management system which would bring about discipline through accountability. The fact that building regulations are being widely flouted, and a majority of buildings have been occupied without completion certificates goes to show that while approvals can be a major source of harassment, owners can, with some maneuvering, get away with all types of violations. If a system is evolved whereby the architect of the project is made accountable for adherence to regulations and later the city authorities defect violations, it can not only haul up the owner but also the architect whose professional standing would be in jeopardy. If an architect deliberately flouts the regulations, other builders, architects and enlightened citizens would, in all probability, report against him to the authorities or in the press and he would be in trouble. Thus, making the architect accountable for adherence to building regulations would eliminate harassment and delays without effecting the right of the city authorities to subsequently check violations and bring the offenders to book. It is true that some architects may try to avoid such accountability. For this, a management system needs to be evolved through which it may be possible to enforce discipline in this regard. Whenever the architect of the project refused to accept such responsibility, the owner would be entitled to engage another architect.
Architects with at least five years practicing experience, as verified from their Registration, would be conferred with powers of approving building plans and issuing completion certificates under The Delhi Municipal Corporation Act. These powers would be conferred by way of declaring them as “Municipal Officers” under section 491 of the DMC Act and delegating relevant function of the Commissioner under Chapter XVI on building regulation to them.
To sum up, the Committee was of the view that it was possible to evolve a management system making the architect project responsible for adherence to building regulations for reducing delay and malpractices, simultaneously achieving greater adherence to building regulation than at present. The Committee felt that there was need to bring about such a reform with the least possible delay.
The Committee felt that for laying down a satisfactory procedure for building approval, it was necessary to break the process to building approval into two parts namely: (I) planning permission and (2) building approval. In the first instance the owner should be required to apply to the city authority in a format given in Annexure for planning permission with title documents and zoning regulations which he intended to follow, prepared and attested by the architect. The submission would be in textual from reiterating the regulations and building byelaws which lacked clarity. The architect could, if he so considered necessary, furnish sketches supporting his interpretation. The city authorities would verify the title documents, scrutinize the interpretation of zoning regulation and accord planning permission with in sixty days. The Committee was of the view that this needed to be reduced to 30 days through an amendment to the Act of submission of the application for planning permission. This procedure will eliminate the possibility of the owner incognizance with his architect, trying to misinterpret the building regulations for undue gain. The architect would also be able to design the project confidently, avoiding in fructuous work and would not be subjected to harassment later for ministration of the zoning and building regulations.
If the architect is not satisfied with the interpretation of the zoning and building regulations, or has some doubts which he wants to be clarified, he can make an application accompanied by a fee of Rs. 500 seeking clarification from the Jury described in a subsequent Section. This will be an extremely useful and important procedure since varying interpretations of regulations are a source of great harassment. The interpretation given by the Jury would virtually become “Case Law” for later projects.
In the case of houses on individual’s plots, forming part of approved scheme or layout plans where the building regulations have been clearly laid down, planning permission would be optional.
In cases in which DUAC approval is required, the city authorities while giving planning approval will state that the project be executed only after obtaining DUAC approval. Any modification suggested by the DUAC should be reported to the city authority who had given the planning permission, which shall accord the revised planning permission.
After the panning permission has been accorded, no further building approval from the city authorities would be required and the registered architect, whose name has been notified to the city authorities, would himself certify that the building had been designed in accordance with the planning permission and applicable building bylaws, and that he assumed full responsibility for adherence to the building regulations. The city authority would delegate its powers in this behalf to the said architects under their respective Acts. However, before commencing construction, the architect shall submit alongwith the fees two copies of the building plans with such certification to the city authorities, for purposes of their record and simultaneously one copy to the lessor in case of leasehold property.
In the case of individual houses on plots in which planning approval is not obtained, the architect shall, before commencing construction, submit to the city authorities, a set of the building drawings with a certificate that they were in accordance with the building regulations and that he assumed full responsibility for the project.
For housing plots forming part of an approved layout, the city authorities should develop standard plans. No approval will be required if houses are constructed accordingly on the plots allotted based on approved layout plans, and the city authority will be kept informed with complete details by the owner/architect before commencement of the construction.
Action by City Authority on Receipt of Building Plan
On receipt of the building plans duly certified by the architects; if the city authority finds that the plans are not in conformity with the building regulations in any respect, it shall, within 45 days of the receipt of the building plans, issue a notice to the architects calling upon them to show cause why appropriate action should not be taken against them. On receipt of such notice, the architects shall within 15 days inform the city authority that they had modified the plans accordingly, or that no modifications were needed and that the matter be referred to the Jury. In case no reply is received, the city authority would be entitled to stop the construction.
Composition and Function of Jury
If during construction or at any later time, as a result of scrutiny suo moto or on a complaint, the city authority comes to the conclusion that the building plans submitted by an architect were not in accordance with the policy, titile of the land, zoning regulations and building bylaws, they would call upon the architect to show cause why action should not be taken against him. If the explanation furnished by the architect is not found satisfactory, the city authority may, if it considers the architect guilty of repeated professional negligence, in its discretion, denotify the architect to sanction plans or issue completion certificates on their behalf in future, until his actions are judged by the Jury and the Council of Architecture, and he was found not guilty of any professional negligence and shall at the same time, refer the matter to the Jury. In case the architect is not found guilty by the Jury, the city authority shall renotify his name. Nevertheless, with a view to strengthening the confidence reposed in the architects, the jury may appoint one or more groups, consisting of only architects to inspect a minimum of 5 percent of buildings that are being constructed after the new provisions come into existence, for a year or as deemed fit by the jury, to ensure that there are no violations on any account on the part of the architect.
The Jury shall be appointed by the Lt. Governor and may consist of five members. The members of the Jury should be experts in the field of planning, zoning regulations/building byelaws, law and municipal affairs and two architects of eminence taken out of a panel provided by the Council of Architecture. The Jury shall have a right to associate with if any other expert or seek advice or clarifications as it may deem necessary. The Jury shall also elect from amongst them a Chairman and Secretary of the Jury. The Jury shall hear complaints from an owner, any individual and the architect concerning the project, examine cases of professional negligence against an architect, provide interpretations of building bylaws and zoning regulations, advise the Lt. Governor on modifications and further simplifications of building byelaws, zoning regulations etc, recommend to the city authorities the condonation of deviations of insignificant nature and advise/opine on a reference made by a city authority.
The Jury shall meet immediately upon receipt of any complaint or reference to it, and shall give its finding and decision within a period of one month from the date of entering upon a reference. The Jury shall have a right to call upon the records and ask for attendance of any concerned person. The Jury shall follow summary procedures but shall give adequate opportunities to the concerned person including the architect before it decides on any matter. It, however, shall be at a liberty to give ex-parte findings/decisions in case the persons failed to appear before it. Although the architect will be mainly responsible for the approval given by him on behalf of the city authorities, the owner of the building shall be equally responsible for any deviation or irregularities in the implementation of the project. A statement of all notices issued to architects, even though they may later be withdrawn, shall be put up before the Jury to ensure that the architects are not being unnecessarily harassed. The Jury shall also hear the architect concerned. Where an architect is not found guilty, the Jury shall send its findings/decision to the Council of Architecture, to take suitable action for the negligence of the architect in terms of the provision of Architects Act, 1972. The findings of the Jury shall be treated as establishment of a ‘prime facie’ case against the architect and the Council of Architecture on receipt thereof, shall immediately proceed with the holding of the enquiry and imposing the penalty in the event the architect is found guilty pursuant to the provisions of the Architects Act.
It was noted that the Delhi Urban Art Commission had been constituted to advise the Central Government in the matter of; preserving, developing and maintaining the aesthetic quality of urban and environmental design within Delhi, provide advice and guidance to any local body in respect of any project of building operations, engineering operations or any development proposal which affects or is likely to affect the skyline, the aesthetic quality of surroundings or any public amenity provided therein. However, in practice, DUAC had got involved in approvals of individual buildings, without including group housing and isolated buildings, which have no serving purpose for which it was constituted. The main problem seems to be that the city authorities do not undertake adequate urban form and urban design studies for all commercial, institutional and group housing schemes to get them duly approved by DUAC to go into individual projects. The Committee strongly expressed the view that the city authorities should undertake adequate urban form and urban design studies, and make allotments only after getting them duly approved by DUAC.
In the earlier section, a system of obtaining planning permission has been proposed. After the planning permission is accorded, the architect himself would be responsible for building approval. In projects requiring DUAC approval, the architect shall submit the building plans, models, etc. complete in every respect, accompanied by the planning permission clearly indicating and certify the compliance of the master plan, zonal plan, prescribed land use and byelaws, etc to DUAC directly under intimation of the city authority. As soon as DUAC approves, the architect - before commencing the construction - shall submit with required fee two copies of the building plans, duly approved by the Commission and certified to the city authorities for the purpose of their record, and simultaneously one set of documents to the lessor in case of the leasehold properties. The architect will thereafter be fully responsible for adherence to building regulations and DUAC approvals.
The Committee further recommended that in respect of building up to four storeys, it would suffice if a block model indicating massing, apertures, hard areas and green with external finishing material is submitted for DUAC approval. However, in the case of multistorey buildings, detailed models with specifications of external treatment would be required.
The Committee strongly felt that just as the architect should be made responsible for building approval, he should be made responsible for completion certificates. While applying for planning permission, the owner would be required to indicate the name of the architect who would be responsible for the project. If during the construction of the building, the owner dispenses with the services of the architect or the architect withdraws from the project, the architect would be required to notify the local authority by registered letter that he was no longer responsible for the project, whereupon the local authority would ask the owner to appoint another architect and suspend all construction until then. The owner would be permitted to go ahead with the project only if he appointed an architect who was prepared to take full responsibility for the project and had notified the name of such architect to the city authority.
If it is later found that the architect had violated any of the bylaws or DUAC directives, he would apart from such action as the city authorities may take, be referred to the Council of Architecture for disciplinary action including canceling his registration either directly or through a reference of the Jury. It is significant to note that authorization of granting completion certificate to the architect does away with unnecessary delay and harassment. This legitimizes the present practice of occupying building with no completion certificates, without affecting the right of the city authorities to subsequently check violations and take the severe action against the owner as well as the architect.
Structural, Electrical, Fire and Services Certification
The present practice of building approval and completion certificate hardly provide adequate safeguards for proper functioning of a building. At the building approval stage, the city authorities can hardly be expected to scrutinize the structural, electrical, services design and intricacies of the fire planning in depth. The architects and their associate electrical and fire engineers are the people who can undertake proper fire planning and can be expected to give fire clearance assuming full responsibility for it.
At the time of the completion of the building, again the city authorities have no means of checking whether the structures and electricals had been executed as per design and proper cement mix, writing etc had been used. The structural and electrical consultants of the owner are often required to give certificate of structural and electrical safety, but unless they are fully involved in the execution of the project by the owner, they cannot legitimately give the certificate. It is only the team of the architect and his associates of structural, electrical, fire and services engineers, made fully responsible from the commencement to the completion of the project, which can give a certificate for satisfactory performance of the building. If deliberate violation by them is later detected, they can be hauled up and if needed, be prosecuted. Thus the city authorities do not in any way compromise their right to protect the city’s interest.
There is another important aspect of fire safety. Even if fire planning and execution have been properly done, if the equipment is not properly maintained, the building would not be safe. The fire authorities main role should be to ensure that the owners properly maintain the equipment as planned and provided for by the architects. If the fire authorities concentrate in this matter they will do well in handling fire emergency.
During construction, the owner is required to obtain clearance in Form C and Form D regarding satisfactory provision of services and their links with main service lines. These clearances are the cause of avoidable delay. The Committee is of the view that these should be fully dispensed. The completion certificate given by the architect should be deemed to cover them and under the lease terms where the plot is on leasehold basis, the date of completion be taken as the date of completion of the construction/building.
The fact of granting of the completion will be intimated by the architect to the city authority, and the lessor in case of leased properties with two copies of the completion plan with other required documents, fee etc to the city authority and one set of documents to the lessor.
Action by City Authority on Receipt of Completion Certificate
The city authority may, within 45 days of the receipt of the intimation of the issue of the completion certificate, inspect the building and if any violations are found therein, initiate action against the owner and the architects. Any violations due to subsequent modifications made by the owners, detected after 45 days, may not be considered as the responsibility of the architects. The architects shall, however, continue the basic planning and safety issues.
Protection to professionals
As mentioned earlier, architects who accept responsibility of granting building approvals and completion certificates need protection against malafide action. Clearly the architect cannot be made responsible for any violations all the times done after grant of completion certificate. However, he would be responsible for any violations detected within 45 days after the completion certificate is issued by him. The architect’s responsibility would be in regard to construction standards and specifications namely setbacks, heights, coverage, FAR, architectural control etc as per plan and DUAC approval, structural stability, electrical and fire safety, and satisfactory performance of services even at any subsequent date. Any other deviations after this period will be the sole responsibility of the owner and the city authorities can take action against him at any time.
Whenever Government projects are handled by consulting architects, the procedure outlined above can be followed and the consulting architects made fully responsible for building approvals and completion certificates. Whenever Government projects are handled by its own architect’s, the concerned department would be required to notify the city authorities the name of one specific architect who would be responsible for the project. The Government architect thus nominated would be responsible for the building approval and completion certificate. For giving the completion certificate, he would obtain structural, electrical, fire and services certificates from the civil and electrical engineers of the department/consultants engaged, if any, add his own certificate regarding adherence to building regulations and DUAC approvals, and give the competition certificates. If any violations of bylaws or DUAC guidelines are detected at a later date, the designated Government architect is guilty of professional negligence, and the city authority shall be entitled to refer the case directly to Council of Architecture for initiating disciplinary proceeding, leading to cancellation of registration if found guilty. He would, in regard to the project, be considered as a professional and would not be allowed to take the plea that he resorted to the violations under instructions from his superiors. If he finds any violations during the construction, it will be his responsibility to report it to the city authorities notwithstanding any directions from his superiors. He would, in this context, exercise the independence enjoyed by the finance and the accounts units. This procedure can be applied to all public authorities, including DDA and the Municipal authorities themselves.
Observations of the Chairman on the report and its implementation
The building regulations as they are today are an outgrowth from those prevailing in the olden days when the city planning was non-existent and small municipalities used to give small approvals. In those days the concept of the city plans, zonal plans, urban design, multistoreyed development, group housing, transportation and parking were non existent. The primary objective was that a building regulated by certain standards of set-backs and services would meet the needs of the city. With the increasing awareness about planning, various authorities have emerged, complicating the approval procedure. No systematic effort has, however, been made to integrate and rationalize the procedures. The result is that today no one knows what exactly the procedure is.
On the basis reform which has been suggested by the committee in this report, is introduction of the concept of planning permission prior to designing a building. At present, no authority is prepared to advice a land owner as to what and how exactly he can build. In fact, city officials are afraid to advice anything in writing for fear that their motives may be doubted at a later date. The land owners are excepted to know the master plan provisions and other regulations, plan the project and submit the complete building plans to the city authorities, and only then they can know what they had planned was not permissible. While handling a few urban design projects for the Ministry of Urban Development, HUDCO itself experienced this difficulty. After nearly two years developing the various plans and obtaining approval of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission, it was told that the scheme was not in conformity with the planning regulations in certain respects. The plight of other land owners can be well understood.
The committee in this Report recommends that except in the case of individual houses and small developments in certain circumstances, the land owner should first obtain planning permission. While applying for planning permission, the land owner assisted by his architect, would iterate the planning and building regulations as he understood them and indicate the manner in which he proposed to plan the building in relation to set backs, heights, parking etc. If necessary, he would also give some sketches though it would not be necessary for him to make detailed building plans. The format in which the planning permission would be sought has also been given in the Report. The city authorities would scrutinize proposal and accord planning permission after making such changes as they considered appropriate. This is an extremely important reform and will bring about considerable rationality in the procedures. I feel that irrespective of what decision is taken on the other parts of the Report, this reform should be brought about with the least possible delay if required, by making amendments in the legislation.
Sometimes the interpretation given by the city authorities are too technical and rigid, disallowing the architects to envolve creative urban forms. There should be a provision that in case the owner and his architect were not satisfied with the building permission, they could appeal to the Jury proposed later in the Report.
Once planning permission has been given, building approval would become a less important matter. Bound down by the planning permission, the owner and the architect would find it extremely difficult to design the building which would seriously violate the planning permission. The Committee in this Report recommends that the architect of the project, should himself be authorized, to accord building approval with a certificate that the building had been designed in accordance with the planning permission, assuming full accountability for it. During discussions, reservations were expressed by the representatives of MCD and NDMC in regard to the wisdom of devolving such wide powers on the architects. The city officials have been living very close to the problems and are aware of the difficulties and pit falls involved. It is true that unscrupulous owners and architects have been conniving and violating building regulations. The issue, however, is not of devolving excessive authority on the architects but of making them more responsible and accountable. A system definitely needs to be evolved whereby an architect can be pinned down for his actions and made accountable for them. An architect so empowered by the city authorities, signing building plans in token of their being in accordance with planning approval, would become totally accountable for the plans. The city authorities would still have the right to scrutinize the plan and if any violations were detected, the architect would become answerable for them. It is thus more a case of devolution of accountability than of authority.
The Committee recommends that the architect of the project should also be authorized to give completion certificates. This is also a case of devolution of accountability, since the city authority would still have the right to inspect the building and if any deviations or violations are detected, take action against the owner as well as the architect. It is the owner and not the architect who is primarily interested in getting the completion certificate. The intention of giving the architect the power to give completion certificate is to make him accountable for the entire construction including structural, electrical, air-conditioning and fire safety. It is only the architect fully in charge of project can give such certificate; while giving the certificate he would obtain necessary certificates from his associate and structural, electrical, air-conditioning as well as fire engineers. The present practice in which more than 70 percent buildings are occupied without completion certificates makes the procedure of obtaining completion certificates a total farce. It can also lead to various malpractices, professional accountability therefore seems to be the only way to improve matters.
It is indeed gratifying to note that the group of architects who participated in the deliberations of the Committee came forward to accept such heavy responsibility. It is however essential that professionals who accept such responsibility should be protected against unjustified action. To ensure this, the Committee recommends setting up a jury by the Lt. Governor to whom cases against the architects would be referred to. Some senior representatives of the profession would be on the jury to ensure that architects were not unjustifiably proceeded against. This would have the added advantage of subjecting planning issues to public and professional review. It is about time that the city authorities opened up their actions for public scrutiny instead of doing everything behind closed doors.
Most Committee reports grope through layers of processing. If the Delhi Administration is serious about this reform, I suggested that a small implementation committee headed by Secretary. Local self Government, Delhi Administration and with Shri. S C Gupta, Director Planning. DDA and Shri. Anoop Aggarwal, Chief Law, HUDCO, as members, may be constituted. The Committee can invite other persons to elicit opinion but no additional members should be on the Committee if it has no study case to work on, and implement the recommendations within a reasonable time.
Minute of dissent of Shri S D Satpute, Chief Architect, NDMC
The NDMC is not agreeable to the suggestion of the Committee for giving power for the sanctioning of plans and grant of Completion Certificate in the hands of Private Architect. In this connection, it is mentioned that the NDMC had constituted a Sub-Committee to examine the suggestions put-forth by Shri Shashi Sehgal, Hon. Joint Secretary, Indian Institute of Architect. Recommendations of the Sub-Committee duly approved by the Building Plan Committee of NDMC vide Reso No. 30 dated 5.5.1988 have already been sent to Shri S K Sharma, CMD, HUDCO along with a copy to Shri Rakesh Bali, Under Secretary (LSG) vide our letter No. 9153-54/CA/BP dated 6.5.1998.
The NDMC favors the existing system but modifications to the same system could be made wherever found necessary after due considerations by the Committee. Prior clearance from Fire Officer should be insisted upon, because the system of Fire Safety to be installed is ultimately going to be used by the Fire Authorities in case of Emergency. If the system installed is not found acceptable by them at later stages, it will create great complications.
Our detailed views on all other points have already been communicated as mentioned at point number 1 above and are for the consideration of the Committee.
Annexure: PLANNING PERMISSON Proforma to be submitted by the owner
Signature of Architect Signature of the owner