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Bombay High Court says builders cheating public is criminal offence

Cheating by developer is a criminal offence, not a civil case, the Bombay high court told the city police recently.

Justice Shahrukh Kathawalla rapped the senior officers of Malad police station for not lodging an FIR when a housing society made allegations of cheating against a builder. “I have repeatedly recorded in my orders that the complaints filed by the public alleging that they have been cheated by the developer cannot be termed as disputes of a civil nature. Yet the police officials are not ready to assist the common man when they seek police assistance and instead show them the door by terming their complaints as being civil disputes,” said Justice Kathawalla.

“Despite the above observations in my orders, I find that there is no improvement in the approach and conduct of senior police officers. When the officers are directed to remain present before the court and questioned as to what steps they have taken, they tender a mechanical apology,” said the judge.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Liberty Garden cooperative housing society in Malad alleging that a developer, KT Group, to whom they had entrusted the redevelopment work had failed to complete the project. “Though the senior inspector of Malad police station received a complaint from the society in September 2017, that the members had been cheated by the developer, he has failed to take any action in the matter. Instead he has written a letter to the society stating that their complaint is in the nature of a civil dispute,” the judge observed.

The society, which was constructed in 1968, had entered into an agreement with the builder in 2014 and the commencement certificate was issued by the BMC in January 2015. By then all society members had vacated their flats and handed it to the builder. The agreement said that the developer would complete the project in 22 months from the time when commencement certificate was issued with a six-month grace period. According to the society, the developer failed to complete the project and stopped paying rental compensation to the members since April 2017.

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