No OC for building? Ignoring it may get you an arrest warrant!

Updated: Feb 11, 2020, 07:24 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Not heeding repeated summons forces magistrate to issue warrants for 60 home owners from posh Parel building

Prarthana Heights in Parel doesn't have a water connection yet, despite flats here costing upwards of Rs 3 crore. Pic/ Suresh Karkera
Prarthana Heights in Parel doesn't have a water connection yet, despite flats here costing upwards of Rs 3 crore. Pic/ Suresh Karkera

As many as 60 occupants of the plush Prarthana Heights in Parel have been issued arrest warrants by the 41st Metropolitan Magistrate Court for failing to appear before the court for a hearing despite repeated summons.

The civic body's legal department has lodged a complaint against the flat owners of the 37-storeyed building for occupying their respective flats without the builder's Occupation Certificate (OC).

Prarthana society, located opposite Parel's ITC Grand Hotel, doesn't have a water connection yet owing to the lack of OC despite each flat in the building costing over Rs 3 crore.

"I have not come across a case where such a large number of flat occupants from the same building have been issued arrest warrants by the court. Citizens have either ignored the summons or have taken the matter lightly, showing disrespect to the court, compelling it to take such stern action," said solicitor Stuti Galiya.

The complaint alleges that sub-engineer (Building and Proposal department) V V Kamble inspected the premises of Prarthana Heights some years ago and it was observed that the Building Completion Certificate (BCC) and OC were not granted to the building by the BMC as the developer or architect had not applied for it. But the building was occupied. Kamble prepared an inspection report including the names of all the unauthorised occupants. Executive engineer N M Hamand gave approval for issuing the notice under the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act to the developer, architect and the occupants, on November 2, 2018. On December 14, 2018, Kamble found that the accused had failed to comply with the notice. A second inspection report was put up for approval before the superiors and on December 20, 2019, assistant engineer Y P Junnarkar issued a final letter to all the parties informing them of prosecution being initiated against them.

'Residents negligent too'

A resident of the building confirmed the news saying that the residents were asked to be present in court on January 4 first. "After not appearing for the first hearing, they failed to show up at the second one, too, which is why the court issued arrest warrants against the absentees on February 7. The Bhoiwada police were also intimated," he told mid-day.

Those present before the court were released against a cash bail deposit of Rs 15,000 each, he added. The absentees will bear the additional expenses towards the cancellation of the warrant and cash bail bond.

"We are already paying hefty monthly maintenance [between Rs 14,000 to Rs 18,000 a month]. We also have to rely on tanker water as BMC has not given us a water connection. We are hoping that the matter gets resolved at the earliest. Many residents have invested huge savings to buy flats here," another owner said.

Attempts made to contact the society lawyer, Kaustubh Gupte, did not yield any result.

"We have lodged a complaint against the occupants for illegally occupying the flats without Occupation Certificates (OC) being issued to the developer by the BP department. The accused were not present in the court even after summons were issued nor were represented by any lawyer," said a civic official from the F/S Ward.

D R Kawale, assistant law officer, BMC, complainant in the case, refused to comment on the matter saying he was not authorised to speak to the media.

'Civic officials answerable, too'

Senior property lawyer Vinod Sampat said, "Thousands of buildings in Mumbai do not have Occupation Certificates (OC) and the municipal authorities levy hefty amounts as additional property tax, water charges from such societies. Civic officials are hand-in-glove with the builders and the occupants have to suffer."

When such a complaint is filed, the matter is heard at Municipal Courts and action is initiated against builders, architects and occupants. But it is the "builders who misguide flat buyers to take possession of premises," Sampat said.

It is the responsibility of the builder to not allow occupation till OC is issued, he said, adding that no action is ever initiated against municipal officials for not taking action against faulty builders.

"Why don't they blacklist builders who have not obtained the OC?" Sampat questioned.

Timeline

  • Nov 2, 2018 Notices under MMC Act issued to developer, architect and occupants
  • Dec 14, 2018 BP department found accused had failed to comply with the notice and second inspection report prepared
  • Dec 20, 2019 Assistant engineer issued final letter regarding prosecution to accused

Rs 15,000
Amount each resident present in court has to deposit for bail

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