Shop owners accuse Navi Mumbai mall developers of fraud

Shop owners have lodged a case against the developers in Vashi First Class Court; hearing deferred to December 15

The shop owners at City Centre Mall in Navi Mumbai have filed a criminal case against the developer of the mall in the Vashi First Class Court, accusing them of fraud.

Speaking on behalf of the shop owners, their lawyer, Nelson Rajan, said, "At present, the judicial magistrate has deferred the hearing till December 15. However, the magistrate has warned all the 15 individuals of the defending party to be present in the court on December 15, or else the order will be passed on the same day."

He shop owners of the City Centre Mall in Navi Mumbai have alleged that
the developers had made them sign an 'agreement for lease' instead of
an 'agreement for sale', even after receiving the full payment in 2007.

The allegation
The shop owners have accused the developers Wellwisher Constructions & Finance Pvt Ltd and Akshar Developers of deceiving them. The shop owners have alleged that the developers had made them sign an 'agreement for lease' instead of the 'agreement for sale', despite receiving the full payment in 2007 from each shop owner. The owners said that the reason why they didn't object to this move initially was because the developers had assured them that it would neither affect them nor their business. However, now that the mall has reportedly changed hands, the developers have asked the shop owners to vacate the shops, forcing them to move court.

R K Sharma, chairman, Shop Owners' Association

Sensing that a single shop owner would not stand a chance fighting the powerful developers, the shop owners united under the banner of City Centre Mall Shop Owners Association (CCMOA). According to R K Sharma, chairperson of the association, "It is written in the allotment letter that we have bought the shops in the mall. However, at the time of signing an agreement, the developers forced us to sign 'agreement for lease', saying that the land for the mall had been taken on lease from CIDCO. As we had faith in them and were ignorant about the rules and regulations, we bought their theory and signed the agreement. None of us had ever thought that something like this would come up in future."

The shop owners said that they didn't doubt the developers' integrity, until the management started ignoring basic maintenance and repair work of the mall. "In early 2010, when we noticed the management's lack of interest in executing restoration work, we questioned them for their negligence. They dodged us by saying that the mall has been transferred to Bombay Infrastructure Private Limited. A few days later, we received letters from the original developers and the new one, asking us to vacate the shops, as they were given to us on lease," said a shop owner, requesting anonymity.

Commenting on the issue, city-based real estate experts are baffled over the developer's decision of forcing the shop owners to sign an agreement for lease, when the allotment letters talk about sale of the shops.

The other side
When contacted, Abhijeet Bhansali of Wellwisher Constructions & Finance Pvt Ltd said, "I do not have information on the issue, so I cannot comment on it. Our lawyer is following the case in the court."

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