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Legal Metrology Department (LMD) of State Government is now a new knight entered in Redevelopment Sector. The LMD has sent several notices to Developers for selling smaller flats contrary to the size of the flat documented in agreement.

The Police generally do not entertain complaints against Developers and directs the complainant to go to Court though this kind of cheating is a cognisable offence and the police are duty-bound to register an FIR against such criminal Developers. As for agreements signed with Developers in redeveloped buildings, buyers have little choice but to sign on the dotted line but not even one per cent of the agreements are drafted as per the Maharashtra Ownership of Flats Act.

However, the flat buyers can now file complaint against the Developer if he gets less carpet area than documented in the agreement. Deterrent penal provisions are prescribed for errant Developers under the Legal Metrology Act. Such offenders are brought to book and punished accordingly.

There is a provision in the Act to compound prosecution cases at the department level if the offender has committed an offence for the first time. Under such circumstances, the authorities impose compounding fees upon the offender and the matter is settled at the department level. However, if the option is not exercised by the offender to get it compounded at the department level, then the case is sent to the Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) or a Metropolitan Court. In that case, it attracts the provision of Criminal Procedure Code as it is treated as criminal case.

If the State Legal Metrology Department that deals with weights and measurements lives up to its words though sounds pretty doubtful, harassed flat buyers see a rescuer to look into the flat area frauds. The department says it can take action against errant Developers on two counts.

First, Developers and their architects are legally bound to verify the instruments which they use for measuring the flats. However, this is rarely done. If the flat measured by two architects individually, both the measurements differ. The LMD says that they have issued notices to several errant Developers in Mumbai for selling flats smaller in size than what is mentioned in the agreements.

Secondly, it has been emphasized that the Developers have to sell the flats in square metre and not in square feet as is the practice. This is a violation of Sections 34 and 35 of the Metrology Act and for such infringement, the Developers can be fined up to Rs 5,000/- and imprisoned up to 3 to 5 years if the LMD keeps their words. This is an another example of illusory and deceitful pronouncement of our Govt. under the pretence of providing protection to the cheated buyers that the LMD has passionately announced to inflict fine including sending the criminal Developers to jail.

It is repulsive and undoubted fact that most of the archaic Statutes, Laws, Acts and Rules since having low impact despite the prima facie evidences against the criminal Developers, do not have the power of rigorous accountability requirements. This has resulted in to a massive ingress of corrupt Developers in the field of redevelopment of housing societies and tenanted buildings.

Though these rules are in existence, have been gathering dust and the LMD had not taken action against anyone so far. On the other hand, the Developers say that their plans are approved by the respective Building Proposal Departments of BMC and their engineers. So, there is no question of any parallel verification by the Metrology Department.

There is uproar and agony amongst the Developers that they do not fall under the Metrology Act. The officials of Metrology Department, however, are firm and say that they have sent notices to Developers and if they fail to reply, they will not be spared to face action as subsequent offenders. Numerous cases are on record that the Developers have even been reducing the ceiling heights of the flats while being constructed.

In many other cases of cheating by Developers, the ubiquitous fact is that the warm and silky relationships between the Developers and various departments of Government cannot be at stake at the cost of protecting the gullible and innocent flat buyers by imposing stringent and inflexible laws on an assembly of golden goose laying the golden eggs. The populace of our country had never attained the desired significance in the eyes of any ruling party. 
A ray of hope is that now, the cheated flat buyers of flat areas can approach the Legal Metrology Department which recently seized a flat after it was proved that the Developer had reneged on the floor space agreement. One of the resident members in Mulund (East) whose housing society was redeveloped, complained to the department that his Developer forced him to take possession of a flat that was 51sq. ft less than the area agreed upon. The Developer and the flat buyer had signed an agreement in which he promised an 896sq ft flat. But it is actually 845 sq. ft.

The said resident member’s housing society went for redevelopment in December 2005 and he signed an individual agreement with the redeveloper in October 2007. According to the agreement, the Developer had to give him 626 sq. ft of his original flat plus 35 sq. ft free of cost. For a purchase of an additional area of 235 sq. ft in the same flat, the said member paid him Rs 7.5 lakhs and later, learnt that he was cheated of short of 51 sq. ft less carpet area of his flat.

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