PIL plea challenges increase in FSI

The Madras High Court on Friday ordered that all proceedings issued under the newly framed Tamil Nadu Combined Development and Building Rules of 2019 shall be subject to the result of a public interest litigation petition that had challenged their legality on several grounds including arbitrariness.

Justices S. Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad passed the interim order on the PIL petition filed by K.P. Subramanian, a former professor of urban engineering at Anna University, who claimed that the rules increase Floor Space Index (FSI) across the State without undertaking an Environment Impact Assessment.

Arguing for the petitioner, his counsel Suhrith Parthasarathy told the court that FSI, as commonly understood, refers to the ratio between the area of a covered floor (built-up area) to the area of the plot (land) on which a building had been constructed.

FSI was used as a parameter across the world to control urban density.

He claimed that the State government, through the new rules, arbitrarily increased the FSI for non-high rise buildings from 1.5 to 2.0, for high-rises abutting a 12 metre wide road from 1.5 to 2.0, for high-rise buildings on 15 m wide roads from 1.75 to 2.5 and for high-rise buildings on 18 m wide road from 2.5 to 3.25.

Planning parameters

It was also claimed that apart from increasing the FSI, the rules modify the planning parameters without any basis of rationale and without accounting for the impact they would have on a planning area. They had increased the maximum permissible height for ‘non high-rise buildings’ from 15.25 to 18.30 metres and increased the maximum dwelling units from six to 16.

In so far as high-rise buildings were concerned, the buildable area had been increased from 30 to 50% and a cap of 20 metre had been fixed for the setback area, irrespective of the height of the building, though the old rules required one metre of setback area to be provided for every six metres above the height of 30.5 metres.

Arbitrary increase

Though the rationale for increasing the FSI was purportedly to ensure that housing was made affordable, there was no evidence that an increase in the FSI would lead to affordable housing, the petitioner claimed in his affidavit. He also said the arbitrary increase was opposed to the Constitutional guarantee of a right to quality and dignified life.

The petitioner feared that the new rules would lead to haphazard development of urban localities and choke them with traffic congestion, pollution and accidents among many other ills.

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