The state police has directed police stations across Maharashtra to register complaints against errant builders who cheat flat buyers and violate building norms. Housing experts have welcomed the move--termed by CM Devendra Fadnavis as "a good decision" -but which the real estate industry finds 'disturbing'. In a circular issued last week, special inspector general of police Prabhat Kumar instructed police commissioners in the state to take action according to the provisions of law when people file such complaints.
The circular said complaints include builders failing to hand over possession on time to buyers or developers who deliver apartments without procuring the mandatory building occupation certificate.
It also mentioned builders who build beyond the sanctioned plans or those who build illegally. The circular also sought action against developers who accept 20% of the flat price but do not register the agreement or those who fail to form a housing society within the stipulated four months after handing over flats to buyers.
Prabhat Kumar told TOI that a delegation had recently met the director-general of police, pointing out legal provisions the police can use against errant builders.
Housing experts said there have been many cases of harried flat purchasers having a harrowing time at police stations when they go to file complaints. They accused some police officers of being hand-in-glove with unscrupulous builders.
Housing activist Chandrasekhar Prabhu said, "This has been our long-standing demand to convince the police to take cognizance of such complaints.'' He added that complainants are "ill-treated'' at police stations.”It seems as if they work for builders and not the state. Many of my public meetings against certain builders have been denied permission by the local police in different areas of the city,'' he alleged. Many aggrieved flat buyers accuse the economic offences wing of the police for taking complaints lightly.
Sudip Mullick, a partner with the construction practice of law firm Khaitan & Co, said the circular was a "proactive step by the police, a push from the top to take such complaints seriously. It appears this move is to pre-empt the perception that police do not act unless there is a directive from the court.'' Dharmesh Jain, president of MCHI-CREDAI, a body representing the interests of builders, said, " Holding builders solely responsible is a dangerous sign for business, especially when there are frequent changes in building rules and regulations. We will talk to the authorities and seek a clarification.'' Khar-based developer Sanjay Devnani said the police circular opens builders to blackmail from all sections. "It should include everyone responsible for the breaches and not just the developer. There are society members who trouble builders by lodging false complaints and blackmail them for their personal gains. '' The circular mentions that action can be taken against builders under the Maharashtra Ownership Flat Act (MOFA), 1963. But a senior government official told TOI that MOFA had been scrapped by the state government and the police had erred by mentioning it in the circular. "MOFA has been superseded by the new Real Estate (Regulation & Development Act) 2016 (RERA)," he said. But Mullick said MOFA was still in force in the state."The government only notified certain sections of RERA. The relevant sections of the new Act (like provisions of action against builders for delay) have still not been notified by the state,'' he said.