Builder - buyer face off in Panvel over project delays - The Property News
MUMBAI: Ramesh Chaudhari, a former director of a real estate company that allegedly sold 1,290 flats, without even purchasing the land on which the residential project was to come up in Panvel, has found no relief in the Bombay high court. Justice Sadhana Jadhav took note of the hardships faced by the flat purchasers and dismissed the pre-arrest bail application filed by Chaudhari.
“This court cannot be oblivious of the fact that even before having the title of the land, the proposed scheme was advertised and the flats were sold. It would simply mean that the purchasers were misled,” said Justice Jadhav, adding, “At the initial stage itself, (the developer) never had the intention to construct the flats or sell them, the land was not in their name, no application was filed to seek permission for construction and nor was there any development agreement. Hence, Chaudhari does not deserve discretionary relief in the form of pre-arrest bail as a custodial interrogation would be imperative.”
Chaudhari’s lawyers pleaded that he was only an employee and was a director of the company for just three years between 2012 and 2015. Further, he did not personally benefit or make any money from the proceeds of the sale of the flats, they claimed. The main accused in the case are the husband-wife duo of Mahendra Singh and Rinku Sigh, proprietors of Tirupati Balaji Builders, who have already been arrested.
Additional public prosecutor Swapnil Pednekar opposed the anticipatory bail application and produced before the court a sale agreement that had Chaudhari’s signature. The high court said he shared responsibility for the company’s offence of cheating.
“It was incumbent upon Chaudhari to at least address the customers on the point that the land does not stand in the name of the company. The consumers of the project have been put into a panic siuation since they had no idea that the entire project was never to come up. The builders and Chaudhari have utilized the money of the persons who had booked the flats. Hence, it is clear that an offence of cheating is (made out),” the judge added. The court clarified that its observations would not influence the trial court.
The FIR of cheating was filed against Tirupati Balaji Builders at Khandeshwar police station in Navi Mumbai by one Shivaji Desai, who had bought a flat in a proposed building project named Balaji Residency. When there was no progress in the construction, Desai sought refund of the money he had paid. He subsequently filed a criminal complaint earlier this year against the developers when they failed to allot him a flat or refund his money. A police investigation revealed that Singh was the proprietor of around 12 companies and the developer had sold flats to around 1,290 persons. The high court said that it cannot be said that Chaudhari had no concern with the affairs of the company and dismissed his application.
The Competition Commission has dismissed the allegations of abuse of dominant position against realty firm Lodha Group with regard to clauses in the sale agreement of a flat.
The complaint was made by one Pune-based Rajeev Nohwar, who had booked a flat with the firm. It was alleged that the terms and conditions in the sale agreement were one sided and that the company had abused its dominant position.
For the case, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) considered "market for the provision of services relating to development and sale of residential flats in Pune city" as the relevant one.
In a recent order, CCI said there are several other major as well as small realty players in the relevant market. The services offered by these developers "pose competitive constraints" upon Lodha Group in the relevant market, the regulator said.
Upon finding that Lodha Group is "not dominant in the relevant market", CCI said that "no case is made out against the Opposite Party (Lodha Group) for contravention of any of the provisions of Section 4. Section 4 of the Competition Act pertains to abuse of dominant position.
A Navi Mumbai-based builder was arrested on Wednesday late night for duping people in the pretext of selling them newly constructed flats at dirt-cheap rates. The man who claims to be the managing director of a construction firm, have been accused of collecting a total of Rs 4.22 lakh by duping over 150 buyers.
However according to Abhijeet Patil, the activist who has taken up this issue with the police, the number of people duped and the money collected is much more.
"Mahendra Pawan Kumar Singh (the accused) has cheated over 300 buyers and has collected more than Rs 10 crore. He showed them plots in Sukhapur, Adai, Akruli and also the construction plan as decided by the architects. This convinced them and they ended up paying the advance amount, which ranged between Rs 50,000 and 5 lakh," said Patil.
The average rate of flats in Panvel is Rs 5,000 per square feet, whereas Mahendra was 'selling' those for Rs 3,500 per square feet. The middle class buyers were lured by this offer and got cheated.
"They booked their flats in 2011 and till date, no construction has started," added Patil.
After sensing that they have been cheated, the victims had approached the Khandeshwar police several times and had also given a written complaint. Unhappy with the police progress, they approached the Navi Mumbai Alert Forum, which gave a written complaint to Prabhat Rajan, Commissioner of Police.
"Mahendra claims to be the MD of a group of companies, headed by Tirupati Balaji Builders and Construction Limited. The group has a total of 14 firms and four offices in Navi Mumbai. We have submitted all these details to the police," added Patil, the president of Navi Mumbai Alert Forum
The Khandeshwar police have registered a case of cheating against the builder under section 420 of the Indian penal code.
"Apart from Mahendra, we have also arrested one Bablu Ashok Gupta, the other director of the firm," said Amar Desai, senior police inspector, Khandeshwar police station. While the next hearing for Mahendra is on May 3, Gupta's is scheduled for today.