Citizens' Issues
Maharashtra SIC blocks access to building plan, documents under RTI

Maharashtra SIC has ordered BMC and all other local bodies not to disclose building plans under the RTI Act, used by activists to expose illegal and unauthorised construction activities

The Maharashtra state chief information commissioner (SIC) has directed all local bodies in the state not to disclose building plans or other document (like interior plans) to anyone under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, citing security concerns.


Ratnakar Gaikwad, the SIC, in his order on 26 September 2013 issued using powers vested under Section 19(8)(c) and 25(5) of the RTI Act, said, "All municipal corporations, municipalities in the state are directed not to provide building plans or other related documents of public buildings including government and semi-government offices, hotels, gymkhanas, hospitals, malls, IT and commercial buildings. Similarly, in case of private buildings, interior plans will not be provided under RTI unless it is proved that the information sought is in public interest."


This order has come as shock to several RTI activists such as Shailesh Gandhi (who served as Central Information Commissioner) and Bhaskar Prabhu, who are working on placing all permissions granted, approval plans and concessions for several buildings on the website of BrihanMumbai Municipal Corp (BMC). Both, Gandhi and Prabhu are part of the BMC's technical advisory committee (TAC). The TAC was on the verge of ensuring suo moto disclosure of all building plans, and related documents by BMC.


"This is an unprecedented order muzzling information from being provided. The order of the SIC is bad in law and contrary to the spirit and preamble of the RTI Act. The SIC should withdraw this order. Citizens should ensure that all details should be available on the website to safeguard their interests and prevent builders from fooling them," said Gandhi.


RTI activist Anil Galgali, in a letter sent to Maharashtra governor K Shankarnarayan, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and chief secretary Jayant Banthiya has questioned the issuance of the order by Gaikwad. "...the order is bad in law, without application of mind, illegal, unconstitutional and against the RTI Act. The Information Commissioner has to pass orders within the purview of RTI Act on a case which is presented before it. It has no powers to pass any general orders/law, which is vested with either the government or the Legislature," Galgali said.

He said, "It must be noted that almost 52% of buildings in city like Mumbai do not have occupation certificate (OC). Such order (by the SIC) will ensure that the illegalities committed by the builders in collusion with corrupt babu’s and neta’s are always buried. The common man will never ever get to know about illegalities committed in a building in which he proposes to buy a flat or shop that in future may become another Campa Cola building."


Several activists have exposed illegal constructions across the country using the RTI Act. In one of orders, the Central Information Commission, stated, “The information that 65 illegal buildings have come up in a single zone has been exposed through a citizen’s use of right to information. In other RTI applications, the appellant has been given evidence of another 54 illegal buildings and he claims to have brought to the notice of the authorities another 90 buildings. A clear modus operandi which emerges in this case is that an illegal building is constructed in three to six months and during this period neither any cognizance of any complaint is taken nor any information provided under the Right to Information Act. After the whole building is constructed it is probably claimed that this is an old building and needs to be regularised”.


While the security concerns raised by the Maharashtra SIC needs to be addressed by authorities, blocking access to important information like building plan would deprive buyer a chance to verify the authentication of the building. The recent case of Campa Cola compound building only highlights the need for transparency from local public bodies, without which buyers would continue to be duped.


Speaking with Times of India, Gaikwad has said that there is a difference between a prospective buyer and any other information seeker. "A builder must disclose to a prospective buyer all facts, plans, costs etcetera and can also insist on information under RTI if he feels cheated," he told the newspaper.


Here is the order passed by the SIC…



Rajesh Premani null

3 years ago

I trust Mr. Gaikwad needs to be enlightened with the common sense fact that miscreants or terrorists do not rely on building proppsal department's plans to plan their nefarious activities. In fact they are smart enough to procure the play by bribing the officials of the BMC who have access to such information. In fact illegal renovation or reconstruction is such a menace that almost every ward officer would agree that the maximim number of complaints they receive relate to activists pointing such irregularities. Almost every commercial property across South Mumbai esp in areas such as Kalbadevi, Mumbadevi, Crawford Market, Zaveri Bazar, Bhendi Bazar, Mohd Ali Road, Bhendi Bazar. In fact thanks to illegal construction terrorists and miscreants also do not believe the Building Proposal plan since ( on a lighter note!) the terrorists too know that though the plan may show something, exactly the contrary could be in reality. Also the RTI is the only tool in the hands of the common man to expose discrepancies. It is not the residents of the vicinity but actually outsiders who use RTI to report and attempt to expose illegal construction. I always had a great opinion on Ratnakar but I think I would have to change my opinion. Mr. Ratnakar would realis the agony of the common man only if he would be in the shoes of the affected. We pray that his retirement or pension would find its way in some property he's purchased that turns out to be without statutory clearances.


usha krishnan

In Reply to Rajesh Premani null 2 years ago

Can someone advice on how to obtain information to find out if the flat I have booked in Bhandup is another Campa Cola in waiting. Any advice is appreciated.
[email protected]

Bhartiya Mahila Bank: Focus on financial inclusion and promotion of entrepreneurship, not kitchen loans

Mahila Bank is apparently giving “kitchen loan” as per the initial press reports. Kitchen is the place where most of the women in India spend their maximum time. Surely, we want to break that paradigm, not reinforce it

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” wrote William Shakespeare. But he would have definitely changed his thoughts had he visited India, a country obsessed with not just name, but names which very rarely deliver what they are supposed to do. This obsession with names is very well entrenched in the financial services industry. We don’t just sell financial products by catchy names; now we also have financial institutions being promoted by names. Latest to join the series is “Bhartiya Mahila Bank”.

A bank is supposed to be for women of this country, where men can not only be employees, but also have an account opening facility. So what is that differentiates this new bank with other banks that we have in India? Sounds funny but to start with it is “kitchen loan” as per the initial press reports. After all, kitchen is the place where most of the women in India spend their maximum time. This kitchen loan is the start up USP of this bank which must make our Finance Minister happy who was completely wrong to think that all banks were just clones of each other and were offering the same products and services much to his disappointment.

Jokes apart, the most important question that we need to debate now is not whether India needs a “ Mahila bank” or not, as we have created one, but to see what can this bank do to transform the country. There are many things that this bank can do which other banks have failed to do till now, though the concept exists on paper for long. The first and the most important objective of this bank should be to promote financial inclusion. Important thing to note here is that financial inclusion is not something which rural India alone needs. We need financial inclusion in the financial capital of India i.e. Mumbai. There are several maid servants, women vegetable vendors and other women doing small businesses etc., who do not have access to bank accounts and find it difficult to open accounts because of various constraints. These constraints include proof of residence not available, unawareness about the process of account opening etc. There is an RBI circular to handle this scenario in the name of financial inclusion but banks rarely offer the account opening facility to those who don’t matter to them. So this new bank for women can work wonders in ensuring financial inclusion.

The next significant contribution that this bank can do is to promote entrepreneurship among women in India. We have a huge pool of human resource in form of non-working women, which can contribute to economic growth if capital is arranged and hand-holding for starting a business is done. Banks can definitely ensure the first one and contribute substantially to the second one. There is a scheme by the government to promote start up businesses which do not have capital of their own and is called as CGTMSE. Why not make the new bank deliver capital support to woman entrepreneurs through this scheme or any other new idea, if possible? Of course, due diligence process and control points cannot be compromised by granting loans to anybody but an attempt can be made in this direction by targeting the right group.

Of course, a bank cannot financially be viable by promoting financial inclusion and promoting entrepreneurship alone; hence it needs to work on general banking concepts of mobilising deposits and lending to the needy. This is to say that this new bank should continue with old bank practices to remain viable but should always focus on financial betterment of women to make its name and objectives more relevant.

(Vivek Sharma has worked for 17 years in the stock market, debt market and banking. He is a post graduate in Economics and MBA in Finance. He writes on personal finance and economics and is invited as an expert on personal finance shows.)


Redevelopment of old building: Here is checklist for home owners, CHS office bearers

There are several things to keep in mind while dealing with redevelopment of a building, especially for flat owners in a CHS. Here’s a checklist while dealing with redevelopment so you do not fall into the trap like home owners in the Campa Cola compound

The Campa Cola episode clearly highlights not only the need to curb illegal buildings and corruption but also the need for buyers to be aware of their rights. When redevelopment of the building is proposed, what are the things that you should keep in mind so that you do not fall into the trap like Campa Cola owners?


In the run up to Vinod Sampat’s seminar on 23rd November, he highlights what you need to keep in mind. Before reading, you may want to register for the event over here


Here are the important points that may be considered by your society while considering redevelopment


  • Income tax liability on the cooperative society; clause should be included in the tender that the same would be the liability of the developer


  • Ask for the permission if developer has obtained from the cooperative department in the projects undertaken for redevelopment in Maharashtra


  • Insist on a feasibility report; the services of a project management consultant of repute can be of help to the cooperative society in the long run


  • Insist on categorical statement from the developer that the developer will not construct more than a specified carpet area (be specific in sq feet terms)


  • The rights for additional FSI/TDR benefits should exclusively belong to the cooperative society


  • Do not to keep blind faith on cooperative society members negotiating with the builder


  • Do not compromise on stuff like height of the flat, three-phase meter, bore well, etc. Insist on individual agreement of members with developer before vacating the premises


  • Six months time be given to the members to shift to the new flat and then only possession of flat should be given to the new flat purchasers. This will have a taming impact on the new flat purchasers who at times do not behave properly with the managing committee members. A small minority may not be able to stop a redevelopment project


  • Insist on bar chart with regards to the phase at which construction activities would proceed


  • Ensure site visits to the various redevelopment projects completed by the developers. Before site visit, the letter of acceptance given by the cooperative society (where site visit is proposed) should be insisted


  • Post-dated cheque for a period of 24 months in advance. Normally the buildings are not constructed within the promised period. The agreement with the licensor should give an option of retaining the premises for an additional period of six months. The rent is normally increased every 11 months by the licensor


  • Amenities should be specified in detail


  • TDR to be purchased in cooperative society’s name


  • Agreement should specify that if the project is delayed beyond say ________ (days/month), then penalty per day of Rs_______ will have to be paid by the builder to each cooperative society member, besides the rent


  • The right of the developer should be as a licensee and not as an owner


  • The number of car parking spaces to be retained by the existing members of the cooperative society stilt as well as open car parking should be specified in the agreement


  • The amount to be collected towards transfer from new flat purchasers should be specified


  • No application for condoning of parking space deficiency should be made by the developer without the cooperative society architect’s written consent


  • Project is executed on AS IS WHERE IS BASIS


  • Builder should not make any changes in the building plan without the written consent of cooperative society architect


  • Builder should indemnify the cooperative society for all costs, expenses directly and/or indirectly connected with construction related activities


  • The right to terminate the Development Agreement, if the builder does not complete construction on or before _______ should be with the cooperative society


  • Insist on cooperative society architect’s certificate with regards to the carpet area of flat,  specifically mentioning the area of niche, drying space, dry balcony


  • Above all insist for a lien of say 10% till the builder obtains the building completion certificate.


  • The developer must be told to give his offer of the cooperative societies where he has undertaken redevelopment work with the information as under

(a) Date of offer

(b) Area constructed

(c) Date of Acceptance of offer

(d) Date of receipt of IOD

(e) Date on which the last member vacated the premises

(f) Date of receipt of occupation certificate

(g) Date of receipt of the building completion certificate

(h) Income Tax return of developer and his partners, directors


Stay tuned for the 5th part which will be published tomorrow in the run up to Vinod Sampat’s seminar. Register for the Moneylife Foundation Event by Vinod Sampat.


Check the first part over here

Check the second part here.

Check the third part here.


Those seeking help or advice on CHS issues can contact
Moneylife Foundation’s Legal Resource Centre (LRC) ( )


(Adv Vinod Sampat is a practising lawyer since past 28 years. He has authored several articles on property-related matters and written 46 books on cooperative societies, transfer of flats, recovery of dues, registration and stamp duty matters. He has been an Hon. Patron member of the Estate Agents Association of India. He is also the Hon. Advisor of the Federation of Accommodation Industry of India and is an advisor to the Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry as well as the Federation of Accommodation Industry in India, apart from being part of many committees and winning several honours.)



Vaibbhav Gajzar

2 months ago

Secretary not taking appropriate steps for having the redevelopment procedure completed on time. Building is very old and might fall if not taken action on time. Please help with what legal action can be taken against him as a flat owner. Please advise?

S P Borshe

3 years ago


What about Bank Guarantee ?

According to me the society should ask for unconditional bank guarantee equal to the total project cost.



nagesh kini

In Reply to S P Borshe 3 years ago

This is an extremely valid pre-requsite to stall delays and defaults.

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