You can­not be taken for a ride

HT Estates - - HTESTATES -

wit­nessed wide­spread vi­o­la­tion of build­ing norms such as prelaunch of­fers, con­struc­tion of flats with­out ap­proved build­ing plans, collection of ex­cess ex­ter­nal de­vel­op­ment charges from own­ers, en­croach­ment upon green ar­eas, of­fer of pos­ses­sion with­out com­ple­tion cer­tifi­cates etc.

RTI is the only ef­fec­tive tool against real es­tate fraud in an en­vi­ron­ment where de­vel­op­ment au­thor­i­ties are turn­ing a blind eye to build­ing vi­o­la­tions by real es­tate de­vel­op­ers. Be­sides, fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions are not con­duct­ing proper due-dili­gence be­fore ex­tend­ing loans and the rev­enue de­part­ments are also reg­is­ter­ing these ‘unau­tho­rised’ prop­er­ties.

Ashish Kaul, an RTI ac­tivist in Gur­gaon, cites sev­eral ex­am­ples of real es­tate frauds that could have eas­ily been avoided if buy­ers had sought in­for­ma­tion un­der RTI. Ac­cord­ing to him, a Gur­gaon-based lux­ury project, whose li­cence was can­celled by the Depart­ment of Town and Coun­try Plan­ning Haryana (DTCP) last year for non-pay­ment of ex­ter­nal de­vel­op­ment charges, is still up for sale.

“In Gur­gaon, well- known de­vel­op­ers have launched var­i­ous sub­sidiary com­pa­nies to serve dif­fer­ent func­tions. In many cases, while the par­ent com­pa­nies mar­ket the projects, their sub­sidiaries hold the li­cence for con­struc­tion. So when the li­cence is can­celled, DTCP puts up the name of the sub­sidiary com­pany on the web­site, while the mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies con­tinue to sell the projects. We came to know about this il­le­gal prac­tice af­ter hav­ing filed sev­eral RTIs. As per rules, the com­pany that holds the li­cence should also mar­ket the project,” ex­plains Kaul. Ac­cord­ing to him, pre- launch of­fers, that are a crim­i­nal of­fence in Gur­gaon, are the most com­mon vi­o­la­tion of de­vel­op­ment norms.

Naren­der Ch­habra, pres­i­dent, fed­er­a­tion of apart­ment own­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion, Greater Farid­abad, is of the opin­ion that there is an ur­gent need to make people aware of the power of RTI in real es­tate. “The tacit con­nivance of de­vel­op­ment bod­ies, banks and real es­tate de­vel­op­ers have made home­buy­ers a vul­ner­a­ble lot. RTI is the only way to find out whether the de­vel­oper has got the li­cence, if the lay­out plan is sanc­tioned and if the build­ing ap­provals (per­mis­sion for com­mence­ment of con­struc­tion) are in place,” says Ch­habra.

In many cases, in­for­ma­tion sought un­der RTI has helped home­buy­ers win l egal bat­tles against de­vel­op­ers. “The re­cent Al­la­habad High Court judg­ment which in­ter­preted the Ut­tar Pradesh Apart­ment ( pro­mo­tion of con­struc­tion, own­er­ship and main­te­nance) Act, is a land­mark achieve­ment for home­buy­ers. The said Act is in oper­a­tion since 2010 but de­vel­op­ers are openly vi­o­lat­ing it and the de­vel­op­ment au­thori- ties have failed to im­ple­ment the law in let­ter and spirit,” says Alok Ku­mar, pres­i­dent of fed­er­a­tion of apart­ment own­ers in Ghazi­abad.

Ku­mar, who is also an RTI ac­tivist, says that de­spite the high court or­der to im­ple­ment t he said Act, de­vel­op­ment au­thor­i­ties still drag their feet when it comes to tak­ing strict steps against er­rant builders.

An­other buyer, Prakash PVS, an em­ployee of a Gur­gaon-based soft­ware com­pany, took the RTI route when his de­vel­oper in Noida en­croached upon the green area in the project to launch lux­ury vil­las.

“De­vel­op­ers show parks and green ar­eas in their ini­tial lay­out plans to at­tract cus­tomers and later try and eat into the green area and con­struct res­i­den­tial tow­ers or shop­ping malls. The RTI that we filed brought these vi­o­la­tions to light. We filed a case in the Al­la­habad High Court that granted a stay on fur­ther con­struc­tion,” says Prakash.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION: AB­HI­MANYU SINHA

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