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Monday, October 18, 2021

Fake evictions racket in Karnataka targets dozens including Bengaluru civic body BBMP

The racket staged fake rental disputes and in the guise of reaching a compromise with the fake tenants, obtained favourable court orders for eviction of actual property owners

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru |
Updated: September 21, 2021 7:22:16 am
Police said according to the complainant, the accused later called the girl to the village community house and covertly took some photos of her.

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike – the city corporation in Bengaluru – is among dozens of entities and individuals whose properties in the city were targeted for usurping by a gang using fake property documents and fake court cases.

A BBMP revenue officer filed a complaint with the Bengaluru police on September 4 against four advocates and three individuals – Sendhil Kumar, Babu and CN Nagaraj – for faking a rental dispute over an empty BBMP property in central Bengaluru to obtain a court eviction order in 2018 against the BBMP which was in possession of the property.

The evictions racket, with as many 118 cases and the same set of lawyers and fake litigants, was unearthed in November last year following the intervention of the Karnataka High Court in a case filed by a private firm Shah Harilal Bhikabhai and Company against whom an eviction order was obtained by the gang by presenting fake tenants and owners for the property in a Bengaluru small causes court.

The high court has ordered an in-depth probe into the racket and the Karnataka government has handed over the investigation to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the state police. With the recent FIR registered by the BBMP, as many as 13 police cases have been filed against the fake evictions racket while the CID probe has found that as many as 118 cases were filed in the small causes court using fake documents and litigants.

All the 13 cases registered in different police stations have been handed over to the CID, with the department expecting to see many more cases registered, sources said.

In the complaint filed with the Bengaluru police on September 4, BBMP revenue officer H L Ramamurthy has alleged that a property belonging to the city council – site number 27, street 5, Ashoknagar – in Bengaluru CBD was falsely claimed as belonging to a suspect CN Nagaraju using forged documents by a gang of seven persons, including four lawyers.

According to the complaint, a fake rental agreement dated December 15, 2016, was created between the fake owner Nagaraju and a fake tenant Babu and a case was filed in the small causes court by Nagaraju for eviction of the fake tenant on November 14, 2018. The small causes court was then informed that the two fake litigants had reached a compromise and the fake tenant had agreed to leave the property and the small causes court issued an order on February 6, 2019 taking note of the compromise and directing the fake tenant to leave the property as agreed.

“The accused have created fake documents and filed a fake case in the court in an effort to grab an empty site belonging to the BBMP,” the official stated in his complaint.

As many as 118 similar cases have been unearthed in which fake decrees were obtained by operatives – including a former public prosecutor and at least six lawyers – by presenting persons completely unconnected to the properties as litigants, after the high court came to note the issue last year.

Many of the suspects named in the case filed by the BBMP are also accused in the Bhikabhai case and dozens of other cases. For instance, Sendil Kumar who claimed to be a general power of attorney (GPA) owner in the Bhikabhai case is involved in as many as 22 small cause suits for evictions either as a claimant or a tenant, including in the BBMP case, while Babu from the BBMP case is involved in over six similar cases.

There have been over 12 arrests so far and many of the lawyers accused have obtained anticipatory bail.

Shah Harilal Bikabai and Company had filed a petition against its eviction from a 100 x 56 square feet property in north Bengaluru in 2018 using a court decree that was issued despite the company being in possession of the land since 1954. The high court found that a group of persons created fake documents to claim ownership of the property and filed a case in the small causes court for eviction of a fictitious tenant.

Within a few days of filing the case, the fake owners and tenants claimed to have reached a compromise and the fake owners obtained a court order for eviction of the tenant under police protection leading to efforts to evict the actual occupant of the property, Shah Harilal Bhikabhai & Co. The company approached the high court after a police complaint in August 2020 failed to stop the eviction process.

In its order in the Bhikabhai case, the HC asked the registrar of the small causes courts “to institute a police investigation in this serious matter” and “a domestic enquiry against the suspect officials of the court, since fraud, forgery and fabrication ordinarily do not happen without the involvement of insiders.”

The investigations did not see much progress until June this year – despite the registrar filing a police complaint in November 2020. The probe picked up speed after the case was handed over to the CID and criticism by the high court over the slow progress.

On June 26, Justice Dixit lamented the lack of progress in a case being supervised by the high court. Despite “the enormity of the scam that has been perpetrated by forging the court records and fabricating the seals of the sub-registrars and other offices” there was “no progress worth mentioning” the single judge observed.

On August 17, the CID presented a report on the investigations to the HC. It said, according to recordings made by a division bench, that notices had been issued by the CID to revenue officials to “furnish records of suit properties involved in 71 small cause cases”. The division bench also ordered for bar associations to be made parties to the case on account of investigations revealing the roles of advocates.

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