Mumbai, Jan. 31: Arvind Bhai Mehta, 64, had booked his dream home in the Mumbai suburb of Kandivali in 1994 and had hoped to move in two years later. He is still waiting for possession.
Like Mehta, 106 others had booked one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartments in Benzer Towers, paying between Rs 80,000 and Rs 1 lakh. When the flats were registered, most of the buyers made the full payment — between Rs 10 and Rs 12 lakh — only to find later that the same apartment had been sold to several people.
“I cannot imagine how this was done. When you buy a 100-rupee train ticket, no one else can be given your seat. I bought the flats for my two children. They were 15 then, now they are 27. I just hope I can give it to them before I die,” said Kamlesh Butala, who has been commuting from Ghatkopar, a suburb over an hour away, every day to the building to join other buyers in a silent protest.
Every morning, 20-25 men and women gather on the premises of the half-finished 24-storey building to protest against the builder, Nitin Mehta. Mehta was not available for comment.
Some are even staying on the premises. “I have a brokerage firm in Palanpur. I am staying in Mumbai for the past 17 days. I have closed my office. I had put all my savings into the flat,” said Haribhai Desai, 65.
Seven security guards have been hired to keep vigil.
“The builder was supposed to give us possession in 1996, but he has been delaying it giving one excuse after another. The stay order came in 2003 and it was then that three of us decided to get in touch with the others through the search report that gave us some names and addresses. We got in touch with some other owners and formed a society,” said Narendra Bansal, secretary of the society.
The stay order on the construction came because a second building had come up on the same plot without legal sanction.
The society members then went to court. “Two cases have been filed, one civil and another criminal. We have filed a case with the city civil court, directing the builder to execute the sale deed in favour of the society under the Maharashtra Ownership Flat Act, 1963. This case was filed in 2006.
“We filed a criminal case for cheating and forgery against the builder in December 2006 with the metropolitan magistrate in Borivali who has directed Kasturba police to register a case. Investigations are under way but the builder is yet to be apprehended," said Omprakash Pandey, lawyer for the society.
“Our government has earned revenue each time a flat has been booked, yet it’s too callous to care that one flat has been registered in the name of three people. We are just getting one date after the other from the court. The only way we think we can get our flats back is by paying for the completion from our own pockets,” said Chandrakant Joshi, the society treasurer, who says 45 per cent work is left to be done.