Are you cheated by the builders? Are your flats not delivered in time? Despite amounts received towards the cost of flat, builders did not execute and registered the flat agreement? Builders did not form Society and not conveyed the land in favour of Society within stipulated time as per the provisions of Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act, 1963 (MOFA)? Mandatory Building Occupation Certificate (BCC) not procured? The answer to all these questions is given hereunder.

You can now file FIR against such unscrupulous builders. According to a recent circular issued by Maharashtra Police, the flat buyers who have been cheated by any reason as stated above can file a police complaint against their errant builders. The State Police has directed all the police stations across the State of Maharashtra to register complaints against such criminal builders who cheat flat buyers and violate norms under MOFA. In a recent circular issued by the Special Inspector General of Police, Prabhat Kumar instructed all Police Commissioners in the entire Maharashtra State to take action according to the provisions of law when aggrieved flat or property buyers file such complaints.

Earlier, many flat buyers victimized by con builders, went to the police station many times in the past but the police used to refuse to register the complaint against the builders under the MOFA and they were denied stating that their cases were a civil ones directing them to Consumer Court. This circular will now definitely bring relief to buyers who have been cheated by their builders.

It has been reported that there have been numerous cases of harassed flat buyers having a harrowing time at police stations when they went to file complaints. They also experienced that some police officers were being hand-in-glove with unscrupulous builders extracting ungrateful benefits. This circular is certainly a proactive step by the police, a strong push from the top to take such complaints seriously.

However, the builders’ lobby opines that holding builders solely responsible for the reasons beyond their control is a bad sign for construction business, especially when there are frequent changes in building rules and regulations and such circular shall subject the builders to blackmail them from all sections.

The builders’ lobby expresses that there are chances in the area of Redevelopment, the Managing Committee Members shall trouble builders by lodging false complaints and blackmail them for their personal gains. The circular mentions that action can be taken against builders under the MOFA, 1963. However, a senior government official stated that MOFA had been scrapped by the state government and the police had erred by mentioning it in the circular since the MOFA has been superseded by the new Real Estate (Regulation & Development Act) 2016 (RERA).

It is feared that after the implementation of RERA, the agreements will not be covered under MOFA as the new act doesn’t have the same provisions. However, Section 13(2) of the MOFA states that violation of Section 5 is punishable with five years. As per the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) First Schedule Table II, the offence is cognisable and an FIR can be filed by the police and should be as per the law. However, for other MOFA violations, the police may not be able to take cognisance as the punishment is less than three years. The RERA has mentioned punishment for three years, if a project is sold without registration and is not cognisable and thus, the police cannot register an FIR. In a few years, most MOFA agreements will be extinct and this will affect the circular.

Some industry players, however, feel that this move is irrational and will discourage the builders since the circular is ‘disturbing’ and it holds the builder solely responsible for delays but there are many issues, which are not in his control. Cornering the real estate sector like this, will spread a negative signal within the industry which is trying to recover and that the onus should also be on the concerned officials of civic body who delay granting the permissions.

City builders are lobbying with the state to withdraw the circular issued by the State Special Inspector General of Police directing every police station to take action against errant builders by registering complaints and further initiating penal action against them. Builders claim the circular is just another ploy that would help police officers to extort money from them for any small reason.

After Prabhat Kumar, the Special Inspector General of Police, issued the circular, several top builders had meetings with officials from the Housing and Home Department at Mantralaya. The builders also met Mr Kumar over getting clarification from him on the circular that was issued. The circular states that complaint should be registered against builders who fail to hand over possession on time to buyers or deliver flats without obtaining occupation certificate (OC). It was further cited that after a delegation of activists had made representation to the police and highlighting various laws under which the police could initiate action against builders.

Meanwhile, a Home Department Official said that the law is already in place and there is no point even if the circular is withdrawn. It was just a communication sent to all the police commissioners and nothing more should be read out of it. There is no question of withdrawing the circular. The relevant circular in original has been displayed hereunder for the victims to cite while they register FIR against the delinquent builders.

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