Mumbai: Ghatkopar complex residents paid lakhs since 2015 for 'betterment'
Whistleblower exposes more irregularities in Ghatkopar complex
The mega residential housing complex in Vidyavihar (W), Neelkanth Kingdom, seems to already be deep in hot water, as it has now emerged that bank accounts operated on behalf of its proposed society have been frozen for months after a whistleblower resident wrote to the Reserve Bank of India over irregularities.
mid-day had reported that over 300 residents were issued show-cause notices by the BMC for carrying out various violations, on August 24 (Ghatkopar complex gets notice for no OC in rare rap). Notices were also served to the developer and licensed surveyor, for allowing flat buyers to move in without an Occupation Certificate (OC). Neelkanth Kingdom is spread over more than 25 acres and its Phase 1 comprises 7 buildings.
Solicitor Stuti Galiya has found many wrongdoings in the complex, ever since she moved into it. Stuti said, “We (residents) were unaware until we received letters calling upon us to pay charges. The letters were sent on behalf of CHS Ltd (Proposed) and two flat owners had declared themselves chairman and secretary.” This is a violation under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act, 1960 which says that only a registered cooperative housing society can use the word ‘cooperative’.
Stuti learnt that some residents had been collecting money for the betterment of the complex for past 4-5 years. Initially, these amounts were collected in cash. She said subsequently, seven accounts were opened in the name of a (proposed) CHS Ltd with Cosmos Bank, Ghatkopar (West) in the year 2015. It is learnt that the quarterly collection per flat ‘for betterment and beautification,’ was approximately R12,000-R30,000. Interestingly, maintenance charges were collected by the builder annually.
RTI information sought
She added, “We made an application to the Deputy Registrar’s office, N Ward, to verify if there was any registered housing society or name reservation approval granted. The office replied that there was no such housing society in place.”
Stuti then wrote to RBI and asked it to enquire how Cosmos Bank was able to open accounts in the name of a (proposed) CHS Ltd, and without KYC documents such as a PAN card. “We contacted the Ministry of Finance, on whose directions the RBI initiated a quick enquiry, but the ‘office bearers’ closed the seven Cosmos Bank accounts in the year 2018,” said Stuti.
Office bearers confronted
Stuti added when confronted, the ‘office bearers’ did not heed them and opened three more accounts with Punjab National Bank (PNB), Ghatkopar (W), where the money kept in Cosmos Bank was transferred before those accounts were closed. A letter was again circulated by them providing account details of PNB and calling upon residents to pay the money. “We apprised PNB and RBI regarding the illegal manner in which the accounts were opened. PNB ordered freezing of its three accounts in January 2019. We are pursuing appropriate legal remedies.”
Some residents’ groups in these buildings illegally later managed to open a Permanent Account Number (PAN) in the name of a proposed housing society. Stuti said that under Indian income tax laws, a PAN card can be issued only to a registered entity, provided it is able to submit valid documentary proof of its existence and registration.
Violation of Act
These residents’ groups have been functioning under fake identity of a proposed housing society, for more than four to five years. This is a violation of Section 145 of Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act, 1960 which says that no person other than a registered cooperative housing society can use the word ‘cooperative’.
Violation of norms
No taxes have been paid nor are returns being filed by any of these residents’ groups. Further, none of them have even obtained mandatory permission from the Charity Commissioner’s office, as required under the Maharashtra Public Trust Act, 1950, before funds are collected by such unregistered associations.
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