RERA is not for the common man and hence property buyers need to be cautious, says Vijay Kumbhar, well-known RTI activist from Pune
The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA) in Maharashtra (MahaRERA) was brought to ensure transparency and efficiency in realty deals, especially in the sale of plots, apartments, buildings or real estate project and also protect interest of consumers. However the way MahaRERA is being used by the vested interest, I see no hope for common buyers who are not alert to its issues, says Vijay Kumbhar. 
 
The Pune-based right to information (RTI) activist was speaking at Moneylife Foundation on 'How to use RTI for Property Matters and Land Plotting Schemes”. Since RERA does not provide all the answers, Mr Kumbhar guided people on how they could verify land and property details themselves on government websites that already upload key information that is easily accessible to all. 
 
 
 
 
Mr Kumbhar strongly urged people investing in property to make the effort to use tools and information that are already available in the public domain. He pointed out how his entire investigation into the DS Kulkarni Developers fraud and their dubious property transactions were unearthed by using public tools, without even having to file Right to Information (RTI) applications. 
 
The then took people through a detailed list of issues that could go wrong with property purchase and offered guidance on how to obtain accurate information or avoid pitfalls. These includes RERA registration number, survey number of the property, demarcation, search report, non-agriculture (NA) certificate, environment clearance certificate, costal regulation zone (CRZ), layout plan, building plan, commencement certificate (CC), sale deed, structural audit, completion certificate, occupancy certificate (OC), property tax and conveyance deed.
 
According to Mr Kumbhar, since most of the information related with property matters is available on government websites, there may not be a need to file RTI. He says, "One can visit the Mahabhulekh portal that is the website of Maharashtra Land Records and provides 7/12 utara (extract) online (https://mahabhulekh.maharashtra.gov.in/). This helps you to check the 7/12 extract of all land properties across Maharashtra. Similarly, one can check details of registration on the website of Department of Registration & Stamps (https://esearchigr.maharashtra.gov.in/testingesearch/Login.aspx). Here you need to register once to check data related with registration of a property. However, for original information and certified copy, you need to visit the concerned office of the Sub-Registrar in your area."
 
 
He also shared an incident where one young IT engineer working abroad was sold plot of land by showing pictures on a website. "If the promoter claims that he owns 100s of acres of agriculture land, then beware. There is a ceiling in Maharashtra for owning agriculture land for individuals. Also as per the law, you cannot buy agricultural land, if you are not a farmer. Promoters often use the word, 'proposed non-agricultural (NA) land'. This is misleading. There is no concept of proposed NA. Either the land is agricultural or non-agricultural. With this proposed NA scheme, there is no guarantee that the land will become NA. In addition, it may take 10 or 20 or even more years before the agricultural land can be converted to NA. Do ask the promoter exact survey number of the property. If he is not sharing, then do not invest any money. In short, do not fall for such marketing gimmicks and do a thorough search about the promoters, the property or land, all official documents related with the project, before handing over your hard earned money to the seller," Mr Kumbhar advised.
 
Mr Kumbhar also explained difference between sale deed and agreement to sale. He says, "As the name says, a sale deed is agreement for the actual sale that has taken place. While in the agreement to sale, actual sale may not have taken place and both parties would just have agreed for the sale. When a dispute about ownership arises, it is the sale deed that is termed as legal and valid document and not the agreement of sale."
 
 
He then guided the participants on how to check environment clearance certificate for the realty project, how to get structural audit done with help from three-four other buyers in the same project to check quality of materials used there, how to understand difference between completion certificate and occupancy certificate. 
 
Coming back to his criticism of issues with the MahaRERA data he says, "To protect interest of consumers, the MahaRERA mandates promoter-builders or developers and the Authority (RERA) itself to publish certain information like credentials of promoter-builders and developers and their projects on the website. However, through the latest amendment in rules, MahaRERA has given discretionary powers to builder or developers with regard to the information that is uploaded on the RERA portal. This is wrong and not in the interest of buyers.”
 
 
Mr Kumbhar’s talk was attended by several well-known activists and realty experts. Among them was Pankaj Kapoor, Founder and Managing Director of Liases Foras Real Estate Rating & Research Pvt Ltd. While admitting that there is a still long way to go for RERA to be effective, Mr Kapoor, in response to a query, said that MahaRERA was a big step forward in terms of information available and buyers are at least becoming aware of several things in property market. He says, “With RERA, promoters and developers are mandated to upload all details of the project, which were not shared with buyers earlier. The information uploaded on RERA website by promoters and developers may not be 100% accurate or true. But at least this is good beginning and I feel over the next few years, as buyers demand more information, the promoters and developers will come forward and share all details in public domain.” 
 
Mr Kapoor also believes that things will begin to settle down as these mistakes are pointed out by consumers and MahaRERA initiates corrective action. 
 
Citing the example of parking in a building, Mr Kumbhar pointed out differences between MahaRERA and relevant judgement of the Supreme Court. "The apex court says parking cannot be sold in a housing society by the builder. However, the RERA says parking charges should be shown separately in the cost. This is causing confusion in the buyer's mind. The ruling by the SC is considered as law of the land and thus RERA needs to provide clarification in this matter," he added.
 
 
The discussion ended with an update on Mr Kumbhar’s investigation in the DS Kulkarni Developers issue, which is making waves in Pune. He said the size of the scam is likely to be around Rs6,000 crore and urged people to file a first information report (FIR) under the Maharashtra Protection of Investors and Depositors Act (MPID). He pointed out that MPID Act is the only statute that has the power to impound assets of relatives of the promoters who are the beneficiaries of money siphoned from the companies.
 

 

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    COMMENTS

    vswami

    1 year ago

    As regards the view on 'car parking' , - saying there is a difference between RERA and the SC Judgment in Nahalchand's case, - as brought out at length, repeatedly so, to say the least, for knowing the correct legal position, the Judgment requires a close , insightful study. For feed - input supplied, refer > https://www.facebook.com/swaminathanv3/posts/1673494952726784

    vswami

    1 year ago

    An UPDATE here >https://www.facebook.com/swaminathanv3/posts/1673466609396285

    As may not have been unexpected, a jurisdictional issue is seen to have cropped up ?!

    IShirish Shanbhag

    2 years ago

    All those people who are cheated by the Builders either go to consumer court or civil court under Maharashtra Protection of Investors and Depositors Act.

    IShirish Shanbhag

    2 years ago

    Who knows Reliance industries default with MMRDA in Mumbai Metro Services.
    MMRDA has greatly overlooked several defaulters, like Drive In cinema.
    The plot was given with specific purpose of drive in cinema open air theatre.
    After closing drive in theatre, land should have returned to MMRDA, which is not done, but at high price said land is sold by drive in theatre owners, under the nose of MMRDA Office, next door.

    Vivek Sharma

    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing such a useful information in above blog , this government's step will surely enhance awareness among people (Property Buyers) .
    If anybody interested to buy a legal property then he/she may go for GODREJ MAMURDI PUNE

    kgnsp1

    2 years ago

    Eminent persons like Vijayawada lumbar must be consulted by the govt before drafting such half baked laws which are toothless in the long run.

    merjusa

    2 years ago

    Does ReRA protect interests of existing housing societies against the Developers, when they undertake Redevelopment of the existing building ? Kindly advise.

    REPLY

    Rajesh Nangare

    In Reply to merjusa 2 years ago

    Please consult people like Me.Chadrashelhar Prabhu. It may sound costly but there are too many loopholes and exceptions

    You can knock the doors of Consumer Court if PIO denies information under RTI
    Treating denial of information under Right to Information (RTI) Act can be termed ‘deficiency in service’ under the Consumer Protection Act, as payment of Rs10 fee makes you a client of the public authority, from whom you are seeking information. Thus, you can knock at the door of the Consumer Redressal Forum, like it has successfully been done by several RTI applicants and claimed compensation for denial of information.
     
    Mumbai based lawyer, activist and expert in housing and realty matters, Advocate Vinod Sampat, had filed a RTI application with the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Sub-Registrar Office, Mumbai city, seeking information on names of officers handling documents, number of anti-corruption cases filed, a copy of a registration document and so on. The PIO, however, declined the information.
     
    Mr Sampat experimented with an ingenious solution that worked well for him. He says, “Instead of appealing with the Appellate Authority, I decided to approach the Consumer Redressal Forum as it amounts to ‘deficiency in service’.”
     
    A case was filed before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Mumbai Suburban District, making the Inspector General of Registration, headquartered at Pune, a party to it. He sought nominal compensation for denial of information. 
     
    The Consumer Redressal Forum sent summons to the Pune office, directing the PIO of the IG Registrar’s office to file his say within 30 days from the date of the receipt of this notice. The summon asked the PIO to file an affidavit, attested before a Competent Authority supporting his say and list of documents he would be relying on, for his defense.  
     
    Lo and behold, the IG Registrar’s office promptly sent Adv Sampat a reply stating that “the said document has been searched on priority and has been found.” Thus, Adv Sampat got the information he had sought for, promptly. 
     
    He says, “Government officers are used to working within the comforts of their offices. The PIO from IG Registration office in Pune, would have to come to the Mumbai Consumer Redressal Forum. Before that he would have to seek advice of his legal department, where he would have to be answerable to various questions. So, it is clear that the IG Registrar must have used his good offices to promptly procure the information within a week of the summons and give it to me under RTI.”
     
    Though this case pertains to 2012, there have been several instances wherein RTI applicants have rushed to the Consumer Court. In fact, Punjab based RTI activist, Surendera M Bhanot has compiled a list of such cases, which have met with positive results for the RTI applicants turned Complainants to the Consumer Court.  (See the list below in Box 1).
     
    In fact, in 2013, the Ernakulum District Consumer Redressal Forum, had passed a landmark judgment, that if the RTI applicant is denied information, it will be considered deficiency of service and the applicant will be entitled to compensation under the RTI Act. In this case, the RTI applicant had sought information on names of councilors who had failed to hold Ward sabhas in Kochi Municipal Corp. The Ernakulum District Consumer Redressal Forum referred the matter to National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, which stated that the RTI Act does not provide remedy to the applicant if he or she is denied information; disciplinary action is taken only against the competent authority. The applicant does not get any compensation for deficiency of service. The Consumer Forum therefore directed the officer to pay compensation of Rs5,000 to the complainant as compensation as Rs1,000 as cost.
     
    However, in 2015, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held that “no complaint by a person alleging deficiency in services rendered by the CPIO or PIO is maintainable before a Consumer Forum.” 
     
    Nevertheless, it surely puts pressure on the public authorities under RTI, as it did in the case of Adv Sampat.
     
    Box 1
     
    List provided by Punjab based RTI activist, Surendera M Bhanot (the writer has not checked each and every link):
     
    “A List of successful Consumer Complaints in RTI Cases. In most cases the link to the orders are also given. However, all orders can be also be accessed at Computerization and Computer Networking of Consumer Forums in Country (Confonet)
     
    Before National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
     
    1. NCDRC Iin RP No. 2774 of 2004 IN Usha Rani Aggarwal Versus Nagar Palika Parishad, Haldwani
    2. NCDRC IN RP No. 1975 OF 2005 IN Dr. S.P. Thirumala Rao Vs. Municipal Commissioner Mysore City Municipal Corporation
     
    Before Various District Consumer Fora
     
    District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Mandi H.P . CC No.14/2009 IN Lawan Thakur Vs PIO-cum-Additional Distt Magistrate, Kullu, H.P.
     
    1. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum South Mumbai CC No. SMF/MUM/301/2009 Shrikant Yeshwant V/s Public Service Commission , Mumbai
    2. District Consumer Disputes Redressal ForumVizianagaram C.C.NO:118/2010 IN MATTER OF Barla Venkata Rao VS PIO Tahsildar, Vizianagaram
    3. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum Tuticorin CC No. 57/10 Rajakumar vs PIO (Registrar) Manomaniam Sundaranar University & ors
    4. District Consumer Disputes Redressal ForumVizianagaram C.C.NO:116/2010 IN MATTER OF Vaka Venkata Narasimham VS Commissioner Endowments
    5. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum , Nuapada CC/11/8 in Yado kumr Sahu Vs. PIO,O/o BDO,Nuapada
    6. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum FARIDKOT Punjab CC No. : 102 /11 Ashu Mittal Versus PIO cum District Transport Officer, Faridkot
    7. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum NIZAMABAD C.C.No.41 of 2010 R.Rammohan Rao vs I O (Divisional Engineer Operation), NPDCL
    8. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum Mohali CC No. 249 of 2011 Dr. Sanjeev Malhotra vs Estate Officer GMADA Mohali
    9. Medak Dist. Consumer Forum (AP) Sangareddy Chandra Reddy vs District Education Officer
    10. DCDRF Mohali-2 Balraj Kalra vs APIO Rural Development Punjab.
    11. DCDRF Ludhiana dated 09.11.2011 in matter of Sanjeev Malhotra vs Deputy Commissioner Ludhiana and ors.
    12. Decision dated 30-11-2011 of Consumer Forum, Bangalore II additional ordering supply of information and compensation also.
    13. Pune decision is attached herewith.
    14. 2 decisions of Namakkal [TN]Dist Consumer Forum for information of our members.Complaints have failed for technical reasons.
    15. Excellent Order dated 10-02-2012 by Hon'ble DCDRF Mohali in Consumer Complaint in matter of Sh. Balraj Kalra vs APIO Director Rural Development and Panchayats & ors.
    16.  Won a case in Consumer forum against university for not getting my revaluation done. this judgment also throw a lime light that even universities and educational boards are still under the purview of consumer protection Act.
    17. judgement of DCDRF Chandigarh-1 in CC/496/2011
    18. DCDRF-I Chandigarh in Complaint No.411/2011 in matter of Sh. Sanjay Mishra vs PIO PSIC .The forum has held that that an RTI Applicant is a consumer , eligible for remedy under CPA . Although , the deficiency in service could not be proved in this case , still it is a positive Order for RTI Users .
    19. The judgement of DCDRF CHENNAI dated 06/06/2012
    20. Another Judgment from Bangalore 3 Addl. DCDRF regarding RTI. Here Complainant is held as not a consumer but still DCDRF granted relief to some extent. 
    21. Mysore DCDRF has awarded compensation for non furnishing of information. 
    22. Punjab State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission considers RTI Applicant a Consumer. Case No. A/11/1323.
    23. State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Punjab, decides another case in faour of RTI Consumer.
    24. "The power of the commission under s. 19 8 b is limited and can only be exercised on exceptional cases where an applicant has suffered ....". Further, the supreme court judgment of civil appeal 7543 of 2004 (already attached in the thread) in the paras 24, 29, 30 and particularly para 31 "In our view.................additional or alternative remedy". These observation are clear that rti can be filed in cpf. Any other specific cases for rti not covered in cp or covered in cp in high or supreme courts can be loaded for more awareness.
     
    LINKS TO VARIOUS ORDERS:
     
     
    Box 2:
     
    Definition of Consumer under Consumer Protection Act:
     
    (d)  "consumer" means any person who—
    (i)    buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys such goods for consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment when such use is made with the approval of such person, but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose; or
    (ii)   hires or avails of any services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly prom­ised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who 'hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person but does not include a person who avails of such services for any commercial purposes;
     
    Explanation.— For the purposes of this clause, “commercial purpose” does not include use by a person of goods bought and used by him and services availed by him exclusively for the purposes of earning his livelihood by means of self-employment
     
    (Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005, and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book, “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte”, with Vinita Kamte, and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.) 
     
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    COMMENTS

    Srinivas Gm

    2 years ago

    supreme court orders ! if any please update

    Srinivas Gm

    2 years ago

    the complaint and appeal under consumer act are rejected.
    please provide the present CC number forum detail, appeal numbers

    GLN Prasad

    2 years ago

    As of now, I am 100% sure, that RTI Applicants are not being permitted to complaint before District Forum as such.
    The SLP filed by one Shri S.K. Mishra was simply dismissed by SC.
    He is still trying before SC for review.
    Please do check accuracy with NCDRC once again.

    Sports Authority of India, anything but sporting
    It is 12 years since the implementation of the RTI Act 2005, under which it is mandatory for every public authority to voluntarily make information public on its website as per Section 4 (a) and (b). However, it has been observed, time and again, that most public authorities do not abide by this requirement, despite a series of circulars from the DoPT (Department of Personnel & Training). Even directives sent, time and again, by Central and State Information Commissions asking all public authorities to ensure that they upload information, have not helped. The only hope is that several CIC decisions on second appeals issuing specific directives to public authorities will lead to compliance.  
     
    The Sports Authority of India (SAI) is a classic case of apathy towards transparency that is mandated under Section 4 of the RTI Act. This column is about a number of queries by an  RTI applicant including information on names of sportspersons who have failed anti-doping tests which the SAI has stonewalled. As per the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules, it is mandatory to publish names of those who failed doping tests. Its rule states:   ``MANDATORY PUBLIC DISCLOSURE If you are found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation, that fact will be made public. The idea is that this publicity serves as an important deterrent to doping. An Anti-Doping Organizations must, except in the case of a minor, publish the name of an athlete, the nature of the rules violation and the consequences within 20 days after a final ruling. If the final decision was that there was no violation, the decision may only be disclosed publicly with the consent of the athlete.’’ Our NADA (National Anti-Doping Agency) also has the same rules for public disclosure of names of such errant sportspersons.
     
    But here is what our Sports Authority of India (SAI) does; it not only does not publish information, but has brazenly rejected it when sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Here are some queries that were rejected:
    • Certified copy of the list of drugs banned by SAI
    • List of players tested positive in various events for use of drugs
    • Certified copies of all requisition letters that SAI moved to NADA (National Anti Doping Agency) seeking action in the past two years (2015-16)
    • Certified copy of various wrestling federations (state/regional/district/selection trial levels/any others come under title of Indian Olympic Association
    • And so on…
     
    Since SAI and NADA (National Anti-Doping Agency) did not provide information, the RTI applicant filed second appeals. The Central Information Commissioner (CIC) has now ordered the SAI to provide the information within a certain time frame.
     
    Let us look at the CIC orders
     
    1. Deepak v. PIO, Sports Authority of India; Second Appeal : 21.04.2017 Hearing : 07.09.2017. Decided on: 8.9.2017.
     
    Information sought: Appellant sought a certified copy of the list of drugs that are banned by SAI, certified copies of various drug analysis tests conducted by it, certified copy of the list of players/contestants who tested positive for drug during certain events, certified copy of a declaration that if there was no drug analysis done at district or state level, how were national level drug tests legitimised.
     
    The appellant received only part of the information. CIC Sridhar Acharyulu directed SAI to provide the information within 15 days
     
    2. Deepak v. PIO, Indian Power Lifting Federation RTI : 31.03.2017. Second Appeal :1.08.2017 Hearing : 07.09.2017
     
    Information sought: Appellant sought certified copies of all requisition letters that SAF moved to NADA seeking anti-doping tests in the past two years (2015-16), certified copy of ‘in competition’ and ‘out of competition’ anti-doping test records performed by NADA upon its request/intimation letter to them for conducting anti-doping during the period 2015-16, certified copy of response/replication/execution record of anti-doping by NADA/other authority in addition to copy of their denial, if NADA does not conduct anti-doping at regional/district levels and prime and only barrier to qualify for national champion then, certified copy of suggestions, intimation to them.
     
    The application was transferred to Sports Authority of India. The Indian Power Lifting Federation replied that since their Federation does not receive any grant-in-aid from Ministry of Sports Affairs or Sports Authority of India, they do not come under the purview of RTI Act.
     
    The CIC directed SIA to facilitate inspection of files by the appellant within 15 days
     
    3. Deepak v. PIO, National Anti Doping Agency RTI -Second Appeal : 29.06.2017 Hearing : 07.09.2017. Decided On : 08.09.2017
     
    Information sought: Appellant made the following RTI request with reference to the earlier requisition to SAI for not providing a response of NADA. This was with regard to drug analysis seeking requisition letter from various federations, certified copy of all the data ) i.e urine, blood, hair, skin etc, provide reason, scientific explanation to substantiate your reply i.e. why drugs are classified into 'Out of Competition' and 'In Competition’ classification.  The reason, criteria and parameters that NADA uses to collects sample only on position/Random basis during in-out competition.
     
    CPIO replied that details of the athletes cannot be disclosed and explained the entire procedure as per which dope samples are collected in accordance with guidelines of ‘International Standard of Testing and Investigations’. CIC, after perusal of files and explanations provided by the Public Authority, was of the view that complete information has been furnished to the appellant. However, as per the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA), the names of such errant athletes come under public disclosure. So, wonder why CIC was lenient. The NADA rules state as follows:
     
    Rule 14.3 
    Public Disclosure 14.3.1 The identity of any Athlete or other Person who is asserted by NADA to have committed an anti¬doping rule violation, may be Publicly Disclosed by NADA only after notice has been provided to the Athlete or other Person in accordance with Article 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, 7.6 or 7.7 and simultaneously to WADA and the International Federation of the Athlete or other Person in accordance with Article 14.1.2.
     
    Rule  14.3.2
    No later than twenty days after it has been determined in a final appellate decision under Article 13.2.1 or 13.2.2, or such appeal has been waived, or a hearing in accordance with Article 8 has been waived, or the assertion of an anti¬doping rule violation has not been timely challenged, NADA must Publicly Report the disposition of the matter, including the sport, 71 the   anti¬doping rule   violated,   the   name   of   the  Athlete  or   other  Person committing  the  violation,   the  Prohibited  Substance  or  Prohibited  Method involved (if any) and the Consequences imposed.
    NADA must also Publicly Report  within twenty days the results of final appeal decisions concerning anti-doping rule violations, including the information described above.
     
    (Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005, and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book, “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte”, with Vinita Kamte, and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
     
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