Beware. Your housing society land might just have been stolen
Shockingly, an open plot of a housing society in Pune and hold your breath, also the land on which two of its buildings stand tall, have been grabbed by an outsider, fraudulently changing the ownership in the land records, reveals RTI
Incredible though it may sound, a new criminal activity is emerging in the property market, in which, lands belonging to housing societies are allegedly being usurped through fake power of attorney leading to change of ownership of land. This, in effect, means that you might think you own your flat, but the ground beneath, that is the land, on which your building stands, might have been robbed in daylight, without your knowledge. This also leads to the basic question of whether you would continue to be the owner of the flat that you are residing in. It is as scary as that.
Such a daylight robbery has come out in the open, thanks to an alert resident of the Anupama Housing Society in the upper crust residential neighbourhood of Aundh in Pune. On getting an inkling of the wrongdoing, one of the residents procured documents through inspection of files under the Right to Information (RTI) Act; then tenaciously persuaded the sub-registrar, who was initially reluctant, to file a first information report (FIR) against Mukesh Gada, partner of G&S Associates and others. They, RTI revealed, had already usurped the land way back in 2010. Subsequently, a police complaint has been lodged last week by the sub-registrar, after the Collector of Pune ordered so. However, no action has been taken by the police as yet.
The resident in this case was RTI crusader, Vijay Kumbhar. He got suspicious, when recently some strange people entered the society, scrutinising the open land. He says, “One fine morning, I noticed some outsiders standing at the open land in the premises of my society and discussing something. When asked, they said that this open plot is for sale and they are one of the interested buyers. This came as a big shock for me and all the residents of the society as we have been residing here since 1977. The plot is rightful open space of our society, as has been recorded in the officially sanctioned layout plan. When some members of the housing society enquired further, they found out to their horror, that not only was the open space but also the land on which two buildings stand, have also been sold long back, in 2010. And, none of us in the society were even aware of this robbery. I hurriedly put up a notice board claiming ownership of society land.”
Kumbhar then conducted inspection of files in the building department and Bhoomi and Zindagi departments of Pune Municipal Corp (PMC) as well as in the Collector and Tehsildar’s office. “Most of the documents, I asked for, were missing but the land extract document, which I received under RTI showed that two plots of our society were sold with the help of bogus Power of Attorney (PoA). The document claimed that the PoA was made way back in 1980,” he said.
Economic prosperity has led to escalation of land prices in Pune district giving a boost to land-related frauds. Kumbhar says, “It is a lucrative business. Grab a piece of land anywhere, sell it at exorbitant rates to land-hungry people, and become a millionaire almost overnight. However, earlier land grabbing was limited to open and vacant plots but now they have started grabbing even the land below buildings on which you and me are residing.”
The story of Anupama Housing Society goes like this. Jaysingani brothers owned a property in Aundh. In 1973, they got the layout plan sanctioned from PMC. They built three buildings on three plots and the fourth plot was kept open as per the Development Control Rules (DCR) of PMC. The property includes three buildings, open space, land and roads to the society in 1993. However, Kumbhar says, “Society officials being ignorant at that time and due to internal petty differences subsequently, they did not try to get mutations entries changed in the Society’s name and so all the plots remained in the name of the original builders, the Jaysinganis.”
Taking advantage of the situation, an outsider who has nothing do with the society, Mukesh Gada and others, executed two sale deeds with Department of Registration with the help of fake PoA. Accordingly mutation entries were changed and 7x12 (saatbaara) extract of two plots were prepared in Mukesh Gada’s and others’ names.
Documents procured under RTI, revealed to Kumbhar that there are several irregularities in the registration of sale deeds in Gada’s name. The PoA was bogus; names in original documents and PoA were not matching; there were several erasures; there were incomplete or no addresses of sale deed executors and sale deeds were executed without PAN cards.
He says, “I understood that the registration was a fake, when I scrutinised the report of this case given by the talathi to the tehsildar. Earlier there was a different pattern of giving the identity to properties. Hence, Anupama Society’s plots were known as survey no 2/4+5+6/1A/1B/2 plot no10,11,12,13 and Roads. In 2004, for the sake of convenience of entry into the computer, the system was changed and new numbers were given as 2/4/A plot no10, 2/4/B plot no11, 2/4/C plot no12, 2/4/D plot no13, respectively and 2/4/E plot no14 was given to internal roads of the society. Why do the numbers given after year 2004 find a place in the PoA executed in 1980? Therefore, it implies that the PoA has been prepared sometime after 2004, fraudulently.’’
Kumbhar then filed a complaint with Inspector General, Registrar office (IGR) and the District Registrar. Action began with the Joint Sub Registrar in his first inquiry report admitting that there was substance in the complaint and an FIR should be filed. However, he stated that until the sub-registrar voluntarily seeks permission from him for lodging an FIR (since normally the sub registrar suo motu files the police complaint in case of an alleged fraud in a land record document and seeks permission of his senior; but in this case, FIR was ordered because of a citizen’s complaint), he is unable to ask the sub-registrar to file FIR. Kumbhar says, “This was just a lame excuse.”
Kumbhar then once again wrote to IGR that there was no need of any permissions and the IGR or District Registrar could file an FIR if prima facie there is a valid case. The IGR then directed the Joint District Registrar (JDR) to act upon it and then the JDR ordered the sub-registrar to file an FIR. “I met IGR and I told him that, as there is a case to file an FIR, the authorities should not hesitate to do so. Otherwise, I will be compelled to file the FIR and make his department, party to the crime, as Section 81 in The Registration Act 1908 states that sub-registrar can be penalised for incorrectly endorsing, copying, translating or registering documents with an intent to injure,” Kumbhar says.
(Section 81 in full: Penalty for incorrectly endorsing, copying, translating or registering documents with intent to injure:- Every registering officer appointed under this Act and every person employed in his office for the purposes of this Act, who, being charged with the endorsing, copying, translating or registering of any document presented or deposited under its provisions, endorses, copies, translates or registers such document in a manner which he knows or believes to be incorrect intending thereby to cause or knowing it to be likely that he may thereby cause injury, as defined in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (XLV of 1860), to any person shall be punishable with imprisonment for term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.)
Thereafter, the District Registrar ordered the sub-registrar to file the FIR under Section 82 of Registration Act against the parties who registered the document.
(Section 82 in full: Penalty for making false statements, delivering false copies or translations, Use personation and abetment:- Whoever - (a) intentionally makes any false statement, whether on oath or not, and whether it has been recorded or not, before any officer acting, in execution of this Act, in any proceeding or enquiry under this Act; or (b) intentionally delivers to a registering officer in any proceeding under section 19 or section 21, a false copy or translation of a document, or a false copy of a map or plan; or (c) falsely personates another, and in such assumed character presents any document, or makes any admission or statement, or causes any summons or commission to be issued, or does any other act in any proceeding or enquiry under this Act; or (d) abets anything made punishable by this Act; shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both)
Kumbhar says, “Despite the FIR having been filed last week at the Kondhwa Police Station, there has been no action from the police. I have decided to pursue the matter to the logical end and also start a public campaign to make people aware of this new crime of land grab, wherein people may be unaware of the land on which their houses stand, are being pulled out from beneath their feet.”