MahaRERA comes out with a circular on maintaining courtroom decorum, warning of wrath if rules flouted; legal professionals welcome move
Concerned about a lack of online etiquette by practising professionals and litigants, MahaRERA has come out with a circular on maintaining courtroom decorum, warning both to be disciplined or be ready to face its wrath. Professionals practising in MahaRERA have welcomed the move but expect the authority to be more proactive about bringing transparency and winning litigants’ confidence by registering FIRs against errant developers. They have also called for forensic audits of accounts in cases where money has been siphoned off and ensure the speedy hearing and execution of orders.
Anil D’Souza, Hon Secretary, Bar Association of MahaRERA, welcomed the circular, saying in one hearing, he witnessed a litigant appearing in a banian. “Even advocates have been admonished for improper attire at times. Litigants must follow protocol and good manners. On rare occasions, we do have someone in the courtroom improperly dressed with scant regard and respect for the bench. Basic attire and decency should be followed by all, in a formal environment.”
He added, “We have a very important humble appeal to the state government to draw focus on increasing the number of MahaRERA benches. Currently, only two full-time benches are working overtime and with zeal, with more than 100 matters listed before each bench, which translates into a minimum of 200 matters per week, every week. Now if MahaRERA would function with four benches instead of two, it translates to hearing 400 matters every week. With its strong IT framework, MahaRERA can even lead the way for other RERA adjudication benches across the country,” he said. “Besides this, the execution of orders should also be highly prioritised. This would be a huge gift by the current state government to the people of Maharashtra and especially Mumbai,” concluded D’Souza.
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Advocate Godfrey Pimenta, who practises in MahaRERA, said, “There are a number of complaints filed against particular developers, particularly of stalled projects. Despite MahaRERA passing numerous orders, non-compliance is rampant. It is advisable that the MahaRERA, instead of reining in advocates for not adhering to online etiquette—which is a welcome step, should focus more on ordering a forensic audit of the projects’ accounts to unearth the truth regarding the diversion of funds to other real estate projects of the same developer, issuance of show-cause notices for projects whose registrations have lapsed, recovery of penalty amounts under various orders which come to the share of MahaRERA and passing of timebound orders after the conclusion of hearings.”
Advocate Vinod Sampat, founder and president of the Flat Users Residents Welfare Association, said, “The circular dated October 28 issued by RERA authorities is welcome. In fact, it should have been issued a long time ago. Discipline before courts and quasi-judicial authorities is essential.”
“I would request RERA authorities to issue a circular specifying the time limits for various activities like conciliation, monitoring progress as regards conciliation efforts, taking up complaints as per serial number and implementation of the orders being passed by RERA. I would also request RERA authorities to levy heavy penalties on builders who fail to comply with their statutory as well as contractual obligations. The need of the hour is that decorum should be maintained, not only at the time of the physical hearing, but for various acts being done by various builders, flat purchasers and government officials,” he added.
CA Ramesh Prabhu, founder chairman of MahaSEWA, said that at present 6,329 complaints are pending before MahaRERA. “There are more than 4,000 stalled projects which are not registered with MahaRERA due to lapse of commencement certificate or other disputes and, as of March 31, 4,389 projects are registered with MahaRERA but have not yet been completed within the timeline and are classified as lapsed projects. On a yearly basis, both are increasing. And our area of concern is the 773 warrants aggregating to R729.68 crore issued against 302 projects by MahaRERA to date. The recovery warrants issued by MahaRERA are not at all getting executed at the collector’s office,” pointed out.
“Since the outbreak of Covid, MahaRERA has been conducting online hearings. The authority, litigants and practitioners are happy with them. This saves time and energy for all parties. In order to guide the parties, the recent circular is appreciated. The litigants and practitioners also expect MahaRERA to set up a proper registry to line up timely hearings, attend to the queries regarding dates of hearing, submission etc,” said Prabhu.
The one-page circular, signed by Dr Vasant Prabhu, secretary, MahaRERA, states:
>> Parties shall avoid speaking on phones and having refreshments during hearings. They shall maintain a formal dress code and decorum
>> Parties shall shall not disturb/speak without being called upon to do so by the authority
>> Parties shall keep their video on as recording of the hearing process is done to ensure identity of the participants and keep the audio off, unless addressing the authority
>> Parties shall join the hearing on time and shall not cross-talk or address each other.
Day in October when circular was issued by MahaRERA