News Point: Some of the hard hitting judicial verdict of the year 2016 indicate judiciary is no longer ready to give a long rope to the erring builders.
- Judicial intervention in the year 2016 fuels the spark of consumer activism and media
- For the harassed homebuyers stern judicial verdict comes as last ray of hope
- Developers are clueless in terms of dealing with the simultaneous spate of consumers, media & judiciary
- Developers blame it to approval delays but have so far failed to impress judiciary with this defence
While consumer activism & media trial has always been quite challenging for the Indian real estate developers to handle, their comfort zone lied with the fact that they could drag the cases far too long to let the dust settle in their favour. The fact that the development authorities across the major Indian property markets were by and large a partner in crime to allow amnesty to the erring developers, made the developers complacent.
However, the year 2016 exposed them to an altogether new reality where the over judicial intervention has indeed sounded the alarm bells. It has also not only highlighted the wrong-doings, delays and defaults in the news yet again, but even gave a ray of hope to the scores of dejected home-buyers.
Archana Bhargav, a homebuyer in Chandigarh has indeed been dejected with the system after her dream home was not delivered in the last over seven years now. She knocked every possible door – right from the developer who even refused to meet personally, to the fellow homebuyers who were clueless as to what to do. Media, of course, did not find a story into the exploitation, as project delays are no news nowadays. And finally, her last resort in judiciary proved to be an ordeal of dates after dates as the developer had more financial clout to afford battery of eminent lawyers.
In June this year, she could yet again gather courage to pursue the case against the builder as she felt that now the judicial intervention is forcing the erring developers to fall in line.
“I called up my advocate and asked him whether my case can be clubbed along with the other cases that the home-buyers had filed in the High Court. This sudden impulse was borne out of the fact that the High Court had came down heavily on this builder in the case against fellow home-buyers. The court has obliged and now I am a party as well in the case against the builder,” says Archana.
Some legal experts even believe that the current spate of vigilant judiciary promises to change the market dynamics more than any government appointed regulator. The reason being that it is coming out of spontaneous reaction of home-buyers against the malpractices in the real estate business where the developers have enjoyed the free reins far too long.
“This is not just about judicial intervention but also speedy trial. In some of the cases the judges have gone to the extent of warning with ‘sink or die but pay to the buyers’. The Indian judiciary is also understanding that the homebuyers are harassed lot and the only way Indian housing market can be cleaned is through the judiciary,” maintains advocate Mdhurendra Sharma.
Developers naturally have their own reasons to have reservations. Raj Gala Shah, Partner, Zara Habitats says that ideally market forces should be the catalyst to better the eco system, as the aim should be to weed out unscrupulous elements, not just from the business but also from the consumer activism side wherein certain individuals pursue monetary benefits under the garb of activism.
“Under an united effort the consumer, media and judiciary, the real estate sector can steer the future to a transparent environment, without being dependent on the government. As the adage goes ‘with great power comes greater responsibility’ and it seems apt for the current scenario of consumer activism. With the easy availability of information through RTI, 24×7 media coverage, a judiciary with stern outlook towards the real estate sector, it seems that there are only unscrupulous elements in the business,” opines Shah.
A section of analysts admit that the genuine developers who are not guilty of delaying and denying the buyers should rather welcome this judicial intervention. They can also be more open about the issues the developers have to face. Of course, the single most and biggest challenge is the approvals systems for projects. It is the leading cause of worry on part of the developers as reason for many project delays is the system.
There is absolutely no accountability in the approval systems and due to several agencies involved there is lack in coordination and willingness to adhere to timelines. Also, most of the authorities are ill equipped to handle their respective jobs/positions which worsens the situation.
With the onset of judicial intervention, a lot of these processes can be monitored, documented and changed with the court orders. The judiciary can also pose a huge pressure on the government departments to work diligently as now they are answerable to not just a handful of developers but to the courts that can give them directions and orders. Only the year 2017 will answer whether the judicial process initiated in 2016 leads to changes on ground or it was just a momentary outburst of the various courts.
By: Ravi Sinha