Mumbai: Housewife turns lawyer, moves SC to get flat possession, wins

Oct 06, 2015, 06:46 IST | Shailesh Bhatia

Denied possession of a flat she had bought in a public auction, Aarti Gunjikar won her battle at the Supreme Court after two years of navigating the corridors of law

She does not have any kind of formal training in law. But when she was denied possession of the flat she had bought in an auction, not only did real-estate consultant Aarti Gunjikar represent herself in a two-year-long legal battle, but she finally went on to win it at the Supreme Court.

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Aarti Gunjikar finally got the keys to the 2-BHK flat in Garden View society, Mahim, yesterday. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Aarti Gunjikar finally got the keys to the 2-BHK flat in Garden View society, Mahim, yesterday. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Gunjikar (50) was the highest bidder at the public auction for the flat, which had been advertised in newspapers and held on October 22, 2013 by Greater Bombay Cooperative Bank. Despite the fact that the sale was subsequently confirmed by the Deputy District Registrar and confirmed payment of Rs 1,15,62,500 as payment for the property, stamp duty registration, society maintenance and other legal formalities, Gunjikar finally got the keys to the 2-BHK flat in Garden View society, Mahim, only on Monday.

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She finally got possession of her flat after a 2-year-long battle. Pic/Sameer Markande
She finally got possession of her flat after a 2-year-long battle. Pic/Sameer Markande

The bank now wants a bond from Gunjikar saying that she would not have any legal claims on Greater Bombay Cooperative Bank. “In the first week of October 2013, I responded to a public notice printed in two prominent newspapers, pertaining to a public auction of a flat in Mahim. I was assured by Greater Bombay Cooperative Bank’s special recovery officer that they have the powers to hand over physical, vacant, peaceful and time-bound possession of the flat to the highest bidder, which I finally emerged after offering R1.1 crore for the property, which I wanted for personal use, but this was just the beginning of my ordeal and what followed next was a tedious battle in various courts of law,” alleged Gunjikar.

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According to Gunjikar, she was not in a position to hire a full-time advocate, so she decided to represent herself in all the cases, which started in the cooperative court in 2013 and went on in the High Court and was finally settled by the Supreme Court (SC) in a single hearing, winning her applause and appreciation by senior SC lawyers.

She’s not done
“I had already appeared for my case almost 50 times in lower courts, but the biggest challenge was appearing in the Supreme Court, where I was pitted against a retired judge and his team of assistants. I was unaware of the fact that unlike in lower courts, I had to seek special permissions and appear for an interview before being allowed to represent the case myself. But the honourable judge did not take long to understand the gist of the matter and earlier this month passed an order in my favour,” said a beaming Gunjikar.

But Gunjikar is also ready to take on the bank officials. She says they were duty-bound to follow the process of law of recovery proceedings and hand over the vacant, physical possession of the flat immediately in July 2014 itself. “I have been repeatedly requesting the bank authorities to give me physical possession of the flat as per Recovery Proceedings under the Maharashtra Cooperative Act 1961, and interest at 18 per cent per annum on the amount deposited — Rs 1,09,50,000, and maintenance amounting to Rs 24,000 for the last one year, but they turned me down for one reason or the other” she said.

Recovery process
The director of M/s Hillway Engineering works had availed a loan of R10 lakh in 1984, after mortgaging the Mahim flat to Greater Bombay Cooperative Bank. Owing to non-payment, the bank had initiated a recovery process in October 2013, and placed ads for a public auction to recover the principal and the interest amount. What followed next was a maze of court cases and stay orders. The case was finally settled in favour of Aarti Gunjikar as per a Supreme Court Judgement.

Heated exchange
Visibly unhappy to find people from the press at the scene, some bank official, who was supervising the emptying of the luggage from the earlier disputed flat got agitated and threatened team mid-day to delete photographs or face the consequences.

They refused to show their ID cards or reveal their names. The volatile situation was diffused by on-duty constables, who were witness to the unprovoked aggression. While the mobile number of Ketan Gurav, special recovery officer, has apparently been temporarily disconnected, the bank’s DGM Tavade did not respond to the various calls or SMSs from this publication.

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