With property prices skyrocketing over the past two years, frauds involving property transactions have shot up. To check this, the department of registration and stamps in Mumbai has introduced changes to the registration process. A person will be allowed to testify as witness for only one document a day. This, the officials say, is being done to stop the agents from posing as witnesses without actually knowing the parties involved in the deal. Fresh restrictions have also been imposed in cases involving registration of multiple documents at the same time. It is now mandatory for both parties to declare birth and identification marks at the time of registration. Inspector general of registration,
S Chokalingam, said that although these disclosures will not be a part of the document, they will be used for verification purposes. Mobile phone numbers and email IDs will also be sought.
Builders in Mumbai allege that demands for bribe are holding up construction projects. It is alleged that some junior officials charge Rs50,000 to Rs1 lakh just to put their signature on a file. Former municipal commissioner, Subodh Kumar, had issued a circular in January 2012 that stipulated a maximum of 60 days for building plans to be approved by the BMC and warned the staff that ‘any lapse’ in approving plans within the period would be ‘viewed seriously’. However, this has had no effect.
Silence Is Not Always Golden!
This is a personal story.
Everyday, we used to park our old Rajdoot (1972 model) below the KC College, (Churchgate, Mumbai) at about 7 in the morning, to be duly collected at 11o’clock after payment to the attendant. One morning, there was a change of plans. We decided to leave the bike in the parking lot and walk to Nariman Point for some work.
We returned an hour later. No bike! The attendant informed us that, in spite of his protestations, the bike was towed away. We went to the police chowky at OCS (Overseas Communications Centre). No bike there either! We were told that since the police were on bundobust duty for some visiting ‘President’, no vehicles would be touched for the day. Back to KC College. There, we found that the bike was picked up by the municipality and a receipt was handed over to the Kuwati Embassy watchman across the road.
Next stop, the Municipal Corporation. The watchmen, who are now unfortunately de rigueur receptionists, informed us that the municipal commissioner had gone to ‘Gav’ (village). We queried whether it was Girgaon, Naigaon or Goregaon. He then agreed to call the office of the municipal commissioner. ‘Engaged’, he said, on dialling. We told him that if he dialled his own number, it was bound to be ‘engaged’. This is how the public is harassed.
The municipal commissioner was not in office, he then informed us. We called a corporator friend, the late Rustom Tirandaz, who was to spend the next couple of hours helping us. My wife, when asked if she wanted out of the incident, stoutly supported me. It was a violation of our rights and she would stand by me.
At eight that evening, we reached the outer room of the municipal commissioner. We were asked to send in a note. It read that if the bike was not returned immediately, the commissioner would be charged with theft. He immediately called his assistant commissioner from Parel. Half an hour later, apologies were offered and I was asked to collect the bike from Marol, 23km away!
We protested saying that I was an old man and did not have the funds to travel that far. So we were promised that the bike would be returned the next day. Our condition was, ‘not an inch here nor there and before 11o’clock’.
11o’clock came and went. A phone call at 12noon said that the bike would be left with the police chowky at OCS. The caller was informed that the police commissioner would also be charged, ‘for receiving stolen property’. So the bike arrived at KC College and I returned only to be told that I must produce the receipt. At that, I suggested that the bike be taken back to Marol and brought the next day when I would also bring the receipt. BIKE HANDED OVER.
The story does not end here. Manoj Nair, a journalist, wrote about the incident. Calls came in about similar instances of impounding, including one from a doctor, the president of the GPs of the Bandra-Borivli Association. His car was picked up from his society compound. When he raised hell, some people came to his home that night and offered him Rs10,000/- to withdraw the complaint!
He asked me, “If they can offer me Rs10,000/-, how much must they be making?” A hell of a lot, I presume.
A month later, another bike, of a friend, was taken away from another legitimate parking area near Peddar Road. At the police station, the cop was reminded with the refrain, “Same bawaji; different bike”. Bike returned without much hassle.
Why do these things happen? In this case, it seems that the towing contractors had obtained mechanical winches with borrowed money and were finding it difficult to meet their EMIs (equated monthly instalments). The cops/officers colluded. The public suffered. And we will too, until we raise our voices as one. Rights can only be enjoyed by those who insist on getting them. Silence is as bad, even worse than the crime itself. So what should be done?
YOU BE THE JUDGE.
Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to [email protected] or [email protected]