In a landmark judgment with regard to an ongoing tussle between landowners and the developer of a big-ticket real estate project in Vadodara, which has left around 200 allottees in a lurch for over four years, the Gujarat Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) has directed the joint venture to resolve its issues over the share of profit and appointed a monitoring committee to track the progress of the project.
The landowner has been rebuked for “carping about non-payment of money for the land”, but not appearing for virtual hearings under the pretext of the Covid-19 outbreak.
In a detailed order based on 63 clubbed complaints of the allottees of San Lucas — a project of seven wings in three high-rise towers with 336 units — which was scheduled to be completed in 2016, RERA has ordered the Special Purpose Vehicle named Dharti Madrid County LLP (DMC) and the landowners, Chaital Bhatt and family, to ensure the timely completion of the project, chastising Bhatt for “not fulfilling his duty” towards the allottees.
RERA has ordered DMC LLP to apply for extension of the project, San Lucas, within 30 days of the order dated October 9, and to complete work within the extended time limit. The same is as per the estimates of an indepth forensic audit undertaken to examine the claims and contentions between the two developers that had led to a dispute and stalling of the project for over four years.
The order stated, “A monitoring committee shall be constituted under the Chairmanship of senior technical consultant, Gujarat RERA, and shall comprise of members… including Finance Controller, Technical Officer (Regulatory branch) and the Representatives of the San Lucas Owners Association. This monitoring committee will supervise and provide necessary guidance to the technical officer… The technical officers, consultants and auditors will report the project progress till the completion of the project to the monitoring committee… and apprise them about the technical and financial aspects…”
The project, which is part of the township Madrid County located at Bhayli in Vadodara, has seen 200 flats being sold since 2014. Bhatt’s main contention was that the amounts promised to him towards the cost of land have not been paid fully, hence the non-conveyance of the titles.
With respect to detailed examination by the auditors in this regard, the order stated, “The plea of the land owner (Bhatt) for not signing the sale deeds for non-payment of the land dues does not appear to hold water. Be that as it may, according to the forensic audit, a sum of Rs 5.58 crore is the total remaining payment due to the landowner, which could easily be paid from expected receipts of the project.”
Additionally, RERA said that despite repeated requests, Bhatts “failed to produce any clear evidence regarding ownership of the land; documentary evidence which shows that the four blocks (of land) in contention belong to Bhatt and have been transferred by Bhatt to the DMC”.
Taking a stern stand against Bhatt, RERA said, “…As per the RERA Act, 2016, his (Bhatt’s) first responsibility is towards the allottees who have paid for the apartments in his project and not been delivered the same as promised. He can only claim his share once the project is completed and the conveyance of the apartments is complete along with the legal documentation.”
Bhatt’s conduct was also deemed “unconcerned” as the family skipped important virtual hearings held during the pandemic. The order added, “The last hearing was scheduled on February 19, 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, no hearing was possible until May 31. A virtual hearing was scheduled on July 27… However, Bhatt did not remain present on the ground that he is in self-quarantine and his father being a senior citizen is vulnerable to infections. Bhatt’s conduct evidences the fact that he is not concerned with the timely adjudication in the matter….”
The DMC has also been directed to submit a bank guarantee of the amount equivalent to three months of requirement of funds for the project or Rs 1.3 crore, whichever is higher, in the name of Gujarat RERA.
RERA has directed the Vadodara Urban Development Authority and the Vadodara Municipal Corporation to not grant any further permission or commencement certificate for the seven contentious block numbers of the land of the project, located in Bhayli village until the San Lucas project is completed. No RERA registration will be issued for these blocks until the completion or the resolution of the dispute between the developers. RERA has asked promoters of the project to pay for the fees of the forensic and internal audit proportion to their share in the LLP.
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