Sunday, 19 May 2013

Yes, David did vanquish Goliath in this long fought war!

A momentous, epic victory for the defiant residents of our apartment complex.

'It is incredible what can be achieved by collective effort when no one wants to seek the credit'

April 16, 2013. The BOMBAY HIGH COURT dismisses appeal filed by Developers against our Registered Cooperative Society of residential apartments.

The landmark ruling pertains to dispute regarding:

1) The boundaries and size of our plot of land (on part of which our Apartment complex stands)
2) Encroachment in form of existing buildings by Builders on said Plot
3) Further encroachment in the form of a new building, work for which had commenced
4) Access road which was exclusively part of our Plan layout and become a public road
5) Ultimately, clarity on rightful, legal owner of entire disputed plot

The honourable Court's ruling has vindicated our stand on all above points:
Most significantly the entire 16,886 square metres plot now legally belongs to us. The builder has been debarred from any further construction on said plot.
'If the appellant (builders) has constructed any other structure without the consent of plaintiffs or the members, he will have to suffer the consequences thereof" cited from the order.
Significantly, constructions have already been done in violation of law by the builders on our premises.

When all the residents became aware of the Court's order, the jubilation was special!! A long winded, tortuous struggle had ended. Why was it so important and significant for all of us?

Ours is a saga of perseverance, solidarity, courage and self-belief against all odds. A saga spawning a whole fourteen years. Incidentally, in the Indian Epic Ramayana, the righteous Pandavas, too, were exiled from the kingdom they rightfully ruled, for fourteen years (to regain it later).

When a home hunter is searching for his dream abode little does he know what he's in for.
As was the case with 196 apartment purchasers of our Housing Complex comprising seven wings. 

I fell in love with the place at first sight: one look and we knew this was it!
Well located, ample open spaces, green areas and cross-ventilation, well designed flats and common areas, great view- couldn't believe Mumbai still had such places available. Straight away, we roped in bank finance and purchased a flat. That is when the joy fast faded away. Our troubles had just begun..

While we were fortunate that we moved in when the complex was in final stages of completion, others weren't so lucky. It might sound beyond the realms of belief for this Blog's global readers but the horrors were for real.
Some purchasers who had waited long enough to take possession of their homes, were forced to occupy them at a time when:
There was no municipal water connection, the lifts began working years after people moved in (as also the flushing systems) and technically we were staying in a complex without the mandatory Occupation Certificate (issued by the Municipal authorities after finding all compliances have been met with by the developers and it is fit for occupancy). In absence of Municipal water supply, ground water which is not potable, was being supplied to all residents. Actually it wasn't even fit for bathing use. Unbelievably, the first few residents did not have access to electric connections either!

'The consumer is king' - if only this adage would apply to hapless apartment/ property purchasers of Mumbai or for that matter anywhere in India. One has to deal with lack of transparency, fudged land records, greedy developers, greedier Municipal officials who turn a blind eye to illegalities. Huge stockpile of pending cases with our courts closes a route to swift justice for the short changed purchaser. The builder-politician-underworld nexus perpetuates this legacy that is snow-balling out of control.

All our protests and complaints to the Builders about the serious issues went unattended. 

The Builders erred hugely by underestimating our resolve and ability to fight for our rights.
'Beware of the fury of  the honest man who has been wronged'

Having realised that the Builders had no intention of addressing our grievances, we realised that the first step was to form the society. Here, too, we met with obstruction from the Builders who created hurdles at every level. Although the law requires a developer to form a cooperative society, comprising members of the complex (a federation) within a prescribed time frame, this scarcely happens because builders do not want to cede power. 

The judicial fight escalated from Deputy Registrar level to High Court, back to City Civil Court- until deliverance by this High Court order.

En route, there were other victories, too:
  • The Builder finally agreeing to and procuring the Occupation Certificate
  • Registration of our Housing Society
  • Demolition of two additional floors being built illegally
  • The Health Club and Swimming Pool completed and handed over to us (despite our refusal to fork out Rs.25,0000/- per apartment, as they were part of amenities as per the agreement)
Considering that we were we dealing with people of very powerful means, the whole struggle could hardly have fructified without solid support of the resident members. The able Managing Committee who represents us deserve all the accolades.

The ultimate kudos, however, goes to a man of incredible resourcefulness, selflessness, courage and vision: our Chairman, Mr.Vinod Shukla. His being a lawyer was a blessing!

Initially, when he had a handful of supporters and many doubters, he believed we would win. For us it was so advantageous that he had belief in his belief! His courage is that of a very brave man. Once his progress became a hindrance to vested interests, he was publicly threatened on several occasions. If he'd have been dissuaded at those times, we would have made no headway at all.
I'm proud to have been of help, Shuklaji, in whatever way I could and prouder to have a friend like you: a born leader, source of inspiration. You proved to be the David that felled the mighty Goliath.

Of course, as the stakes are high, this verdict too can be challenged by the Builders in the Supreme Court and we are prepared for the next stage too. 
What began as a skirmish has to be concluded with a fight to the finish.

Satyamev Jayadev (Truth prevails). Better late than never.
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