‘There is strength in numbers’
It is important to be united to fight a powerful corporate with humongous resources, say two home buyers who moved the Competition Commission of India against DLF for alleged delay in projects and change of building plansrealestate Updated: Mar 21, 2013 18:44 IST
Amit Jain was a successful corporate honcho in the US who had returned to India and set up his business. He was hoping to move into his first house in 2010 when he received a notice along with a cheque from the builder informing him that his allotment had been cancelled.
“I was looking forward to shifting to my new home in 2010, but when I saw that not much work had been done on the construction front, I decided to stop the last few payments. In retaliation, the builder sent me a cancellation cheque. That was a rude shock. How could they cancel my apartment for which I had used all my hard-earned savings,” he asks.
It was then that Jain decided not to return to the US and fight for getting back his house. “I decided to dedicate myself full-time to the cause. The irony is that I was staying on rent then and I am staying on rent now and hoping that I will get a roof of my own one day. There was only one aim – I have been wronged and I need my house.”
It became a full-time job
It was then that Jain decided to trim his company of 32 people to three and decided to work full-time to realise his dream and that of others.
“We started the battle two-and-a-half years ago with absolutely no understanding of the law. No lawyer wanted to take up the case against a big builder. When we did decide to file a case in 2010, we had already paid up 95% of the cost of the apartment to the builder. It was in May that year that we filed our first application with the Competition Commission of India (CCI). It was an obvious choice because if we had filed a case in the consumer court, it would have taken us over 20 years. We realised that the Competition Act was a good act and could be of great help to us. We started as a six-people grouping in Belaire and by the time we formally filed the complaint we were 32 of us (there are over 1500 now). There were initially few numbers because nobody had faith in the system and everybody told us that we were going to fight a futile battle. ‘Nothing will come of it,’” was what they were advised.
“We were not sure about the laws ourselves and had to start from scratch. There was a lot of learning and unlearning to be done. There was no precedent under the Competition Act then,” he says. Three societies came together under the umbrella of federation of apartment owners association and took up the cause. “We also decided to share legal costs,” Jain says.
Breaking point and biggest achievement
According to Harsh Sehgal, president, DLF Park Place resident’s welfare association, the biggest shock was that he had been a gullible consumer who had faith in a big construction entity and was taken for a ride. Yet another realisation was that “none of us were aware of the laws.”
“We had to start from scratch. We had to understand how laws are broken and how consumers’ rights are infringed upon. This was important because we were not aware of our rights. We then decided to mobilise people, those who were aggrieved and who felt that they had been taken for a ride. It was necessary to form a united front to fight a powerful corporate with humongous resources,” he points out.
“Our biggest achievement was the CCI’s initial order in our favour and the kind of awareness we were able to bring about among home buyers across the country,” Sehgal says.
Always be together. There is strength in numbers.