Good News for Mall Hoppers

Everywhere across India, malls and multiplexes have charged fees from car/bike owners in exchange of parking spaces. There have been several instances of malls charging exorbitant sum for letting owners park their cars. However, the Gujarat High Court has now come out with a ruling that will certainly bring a smile on the face of vehicle owners. The second-highest court in the country has ruled that malls, multiplexes, shopping establishments, etc., are bound to provide parking spaces to the customers without charging any fee from them. This decision was taken under the provisions of Comprehensive General Development Control Regulation 2017.

The verdict was pronounced by division bench of Chief Justice Anant S. Dave and Justice Biren Vaishnav. They arrived at this conclusion based on the analysis of provisions in Gujarat building and town planning laws. These laws state that building owners should provide car parking space to the residents and the bench observed that the usage of the word ‘provide’ means that it should be given without charging any fee.

“Since the GDCR framed under the provisions of the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976, and the Gujarat Nagarpalika Act, 1963, do not provide any parking fees in case of mall and multiplexes and duty is cast upon them to provide parking, meaning thereby, no charge is to be levied for providing parking to visitors under the garb of providing safety, security, etc.,” it said.

This ruling came when the bench was hearing an appeal by Ruchi Malls Pvt Ltd and other mall owners against a single-bench judgment given in 2018 that asked the Gujarat government to devise a policy for regulating parking fee. The entire episode began last year when mall owners received a directive from traffic police authorities asking them not to charge parking fee as the GCDR did not allow it.

The mall owners went to the court against the same and the single-judge bench accepted that GCDR did not mandate giving of 'free' parking space and thus ordered the traffic police to withdraw their order. However, the single judge added that parking fee cannot be exorbitant and hence issued a directive for framing guidelines to regulate parking fee.

However, the mall owners again moved to the division bench to contest this decision saying that there cannot be a law regulating parking fees. They claimed that an entity can charge for use of its property and there cannot be a policy to regulate parking fee. However, after examining the entire matter, the division bench held that the single-judge bench's order of parking fee regulation was not permissible in exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution and ruled that mall owners cannot charge parking fees.

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