When the Delhi High Court ordered DDA to issue completion certificates for two CWG Village towers (T-5 and T-15) on February 7, 2013, it spread great cheer among the office-bearers of the two CWG Village RWAs that fought united in the three-year legal battle. A handful of flat buyers representing two RWAs had started a campaign with the conviction that “if there is an earnest effort backed by teamwork then it is possible to get justice through the existing institutions.” Here’s an account of their victory in the words of Anoop Sharma, president.
Who started the war?
Our frustration and anger at being given a raw deal was the driving force for collective action. The size and might of Delhi Development Authority and builders like Emaar that we were to face did not really matter. The experience has been fulfilling. We had invested nearly all of our life’s savings (and some of us also had significant debts with high EMIs) in buying the CWG Village apartments. Suddenly, it seemed as if we are in a dark tunnel - with no signs of any light. We were shocked to know that the entire residential project was under the scanner for floor area ratio (FAR) violation.
Somewhere around April/May 2011 we realised that empty assurances and bureaucratic posturing would not get us anywhere. It was clear that while the Commonwealth Games got over in October 2010, a different game was now being played with the common wealth of honest citizens who had funded a prestigious project. This was just not acceptable and we decided to fight for our rights - peacefully - and within the framework of the institutions that we could seek help from, ie the media and the judiciary. There were significant legal costs. A lot of buyers voluntarily contributed more than R1 lakh each. Many of them reached out to us even though they did not have a stake in the towers where FAR had been violated. This was a hugely inspiring.
A lot of time was spent mobilising people, gathering information through meetings with officials and RTIs, reading the relevant documents/agreements, preparing our case arguments, briefing our counsels, attending the numerous hearings at the Delhi High Court and then regularly and transparently communicating with all the buyers on the progress of our fight. Even though we were working as a team, it still implied that most of us missed nearly a day’s work every week for nearly two years running. Since we were earnest in our efforts and convinced that we were on the right path, there was never a dull moment. We just had to work along against all odds and frustrations.
We stood for our rights and won through the right means, in the process building a large team driven by transparent communications. We are sure, this will provide a firm foundation for further collective action for a responsible community development at the Games Village. The experience has made us all a lot more humble and optimistic than perhaps we were at the beginning of our fight. Though there were a number of low moments, none of them could be defined as anywhere close to a breaking point. We started from scratch to figure out what strategy would best work for us. This invariably involved meeting a lot of people who supported us with invaluable guidance – we remain grateful to all of them.
Has the battle made a campaigner out of me?
It is the other way around. The fact that we, as a team, campaigned well, helped us win the battle. What I would advise others in a situation similar to ours is: have a clear vision, put in earnest efforts, build a team, communicate transparently, and, never shy away from contributing your time, efforts and resources if you believe in the cause.
Issues that emerge from the battle?
The battle highlights many real estate issues. (a) We realise there is an urgent need for an independent regulator for the real estate sector. In this case DDA’s multiple roles were in conflict - more so in the environment of lack of accountability in a state- owned organisation - being a co-developer, regulator and the biggest buyer. Ironically, this could well have been a savior for the project, but in fact it worked in the opposite direction. DDA was least bothered about the fact that it emerged as one of the biggest losers because of its own actions. An independent regulator would have prevented this from happening. (b) Gross disrespect and a raw deal for honest citizens of India, some of whom invested their life’s savings (post tax) in a project of national pride. The only savior, as is often the case, turned out to be media and judiciary - even then it took more than two years to get their due. Who is accountable? Who will compensate?
What lies ahead now?
The two associations take the initiative in forming a Joint Working Group (JWG) - including also some of the residents - to build on their synergistic collaboration to fight for a common cause to make the Games Vilage dream location and takes up issues like gas supply, seepages, hygiene, security and other community development and
infrastructure related issues.
The story so far
They had never ever imagined that a project like the Commonwealth Games Village, an emblem of national prestige, would run into rough weather. When DDA and builder Emaar MGF entered into a project development agreement way back in September 2007 to construct CWG Village by April 2010, meant to would provide world-class accommodation for international sports persons, things looked very promising. Around 400 high-profile buyers had invested their hard-earned money in the project.
In April, however, when Emaar MGF applied for completion certificate with the building wing of DDA, several violations came to light. DDA found that Emaar MGF had encroached upon 22000 sq mtr area in excess of 2.3 lakh sq mtr approved construction area.
When the final date of possession kept getting delayed, the flat buyers formed a Commonwealth Village Allottee Welfare Association (CWGVAWA) and filed a writ petition in Delhi High Court. A second writ petition was filed to address certain perspectives that needed urgent attention – by a group of 26 buyers who were not the members of CWGVAWA.
On February 2012, the High Court ordered DDA to grant completion certificate to all towers, except T5, 15 and T26, 28. In the later court proceedings, two towers T26 and T 28 were also cleared but problems existed in the case of T5 and T15 as 65 buyers campaigned relentlessly to save their apartments from possible demolition. A crucial victory for them was achieved when in the final order issued on February 7, the Delhi High Court ordered DDA to grant completion certificate to T5 and T15 too.