When Manoj Chauhan, a resident of Agra, died allegedly in a road accident in 2015, it alarmed six homebuyers of a residential real estate project, Triveni Galaxy, in Sector 78, Faridabad. Chauhan, in an FIR on January 1, 2014, had alleged that the six buyers at Triveni Galaxy attempted to murder him in Sikandera Sabzi Mandi in Agra.
All the six accused named in the FIR are technocrats working in reputed organizations and officer-bearers of Triveni Faridabad Allottees Association (TFAA) formed in January 2012 to fight against the builders — Madhur Mittal and Sumit Mittal — for non-delivery of flats to 5000 buyers in an alleged real estate fraud amounting to 1,000 crore.
The six accused had alleged in a petition in the Allahabad High Court that the case of attempt to murder was false and filed on the behest of the builders. The high court on August 5, 2015 stayed the criminal proceedings against them.
“In the next hearing, on November 18, 2015, when the police stated in the court that Chauhan had died, we all were shocked,” says VK Jain, secretary, TFAA and one of the six accused in the case. “We sent some members to Chauhan’s hometown to enquire. His family suspected murder but police said Chauhan died in a road accident,” Jain told HT. The case is still pending in the Allahabad High Court. The six buyers say that there are five more cases filed in different places against them but they have proof of the builders’ connivance.
However, the Mittals’ lawyer, Deepak Agarwal dismissed the buyers’ allegations as false and frivolous.
A STANDARD PROCEDURE
In the Triveni Galaxy case, the builders may have tried to take on the buyers indirectly but, of late, it has become a common practice for builders to file cases of defamation, criminal intimidation, molestation etc, against those buyers who question delay in delivery, unreasonable demand for money and poor construction quality. However, buyers’ associations claim that the manner in which the cases have been filed indicate a strategy to intimidate and scuttle protesters.
In a recent case, GK Gambhir, managing director of Today Homes, sent a legal notice to six buyers of its Kings Park project in Greater Noida for defaming him by holding a protest on September 28, 2016 outside his house in New Delhi’s Friends Colony. The legal notice demanded ₹20-crore compensation from each buyer. Replying to the notice, one of the buyers Indrish Gupta said that the company launched the project in 2009 and collected money from buyers with a promise to offer possession in three years. However, six years later the builder is yet to fulfill his promise. Gupta said in his reply that despite attempts to present grievances and seek a date by which the construction would be completed, Gambhir never met them.
Residents of Sunworld’s Vanalika, a residential project in Sector 107, Noida suffered for two months when the developer filed an FIR against them alleging extortion but they were fortunate to get a favourable closure report from the Noida Police. Dharamvir Singh, director of Sunworld’s Vanalika, in his FIR dated August 25, 2016, named eight buyers and alleged they threatened to defame him if he did not pay them ₹3 crore.
These eight buyers had filed their objections before Noida authority in March 2015 for unauthorized construction in the project and one of them Dinup Matthew had filed a writ petition in the Allahabad High Court. The buyers scored another victory when the Allahabad High Court stayed the construction in the project on September 6, 2016.
However, buyers from other realty projects are not so fortunate. Some of them are so harassed that they don’t want to bring their plight on the public platform.
Says a buyer requesting anonymity, “The female staff of a builder’s company filed a complaint of rape against me alleging that I entered the office in the evening when the officer was about to be closed and attempted to rape finding her alone.” “I visited the developer’s office to demand the return against my investment which the developer had not paid for several months,” he says. “I threatened legal action and two days later learned that a complaint of attempt to rape had been filed against me.”
Another buyer, who went to his developer’s office to protest against the cancellation of his flat, got a notice which said: “You misbehaved and abused the female staff of the company who found themselves to be left with no other option but to leave the premises and run away from the back door in an effort to safeguard their modesty.” Amit Chauhan, a resident of Lotus Boulevard of the developer 3C in Noida, has been fighting a defamation case for initiating a Facebook campaign against the builder.
Similarly, Supertech filed a case of extortion against a resident of one of its projects, B V Raisinghani after he spearheaded a campaign against the developer for constructing illegal floors in two towers — Apex and Ceyane. The Allahabad High Court in April 2014 had order the demolition of the illegal construction and the matter is pending in SC.
The Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI) justified the builders’ action as it feels some homebuyers misuse legal provisions to blackmail developers. Rohit Raj Modi, vice president, CREDAI, National says, “In rare instances, builders have filed defamation cases against the buyers. Out of all the real estate disputes, such instances are not even 1%.”
“Some elements want to exploit the situation posing as buyers and try to blackmail the builders. Such elements are not genuine buyers. It’s important to counter them by taking suitable legal recourse,” he says. Buyers welfare associations insist that intimidating buyers by filing frivolous cases is abuse of law which builders can easily afford to do.
“Only 1% buyers play a key role in forming an association of buyers and fighting against the builders who try to harass these 1% buyers to scuttle the whole protest,” says Prashant Kanha, an advocate who appeared for homebuyers in many court cases. “It’s a frivolous allegation that a buyer, who has invested his lakhs of hard earned money into a real estate project, can extort a builder who can dominate with money and muscle,” he says.