Millennium Post

In the quest for justice

Unfortunate are those who were caught in the webbing of fraud builder groups and have to endure the price of embezzlement that these builder groups and their directors/owners inflicted upon them. It is strange how a handful of people capitalised on the idea to fool thousands right under everyone's noses. It is to the credit of authorities to have unravelled the chain of events for the public to take note of how these builder groups have brought down people's trust, and the economy somewhere in their pursuit for wealth. Now reeling under the judicial hammer, their incapacity to cough up their dues–money siphoned from buyers–has obviously pushed the state, the judiciary and homebuyers in a state of utter chaos. But the Judiciary has to play its role as the guardian of justice and it is the sight of Supreme Courts delivering justice which relieves the distressed homebuyers. In an equation, the story of these builder groups is no more than a theft of public money but the impact it had on the public was beyond just a theft. It was a severe fraud where homebuyers' biggest share of financial strength was siphoned off in the lieu of providing a dream home to those uninformed buyers. They did not steal just money, they stole fortunes and people have been waiting ever since. Stories behind several complaints against these real-estate giants such as Amrapali and Unitech Ltd sum up to gross injustice and public cheating on a massive scale–something the SC ought to come down very hard for upon culprits. When the Supreme Court, Tuesday noon, finally delivered its verdict on the Amrapali Groups' future, it felt a fraction of justice. SC cancelled the RERA registration of the Group besides appointing the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) to complete pending projects. The hammering did not cease. The Apex Court directed ED to investigate Amrapali Group officials and directors over money laundering. While the authorities will ensure that Amrapali Group coughs up all dues, the situation still leaves homebuyers in distress. An investment of a greater part of their fortunes into under-construction projects in pursuit to own a home that was never made is an investment of nearly a decade yielding absolutely nothing and simultaneously, impinging the investee with a financial crunch and a judicial battle–for their own money. The SC bench vested the rights of all projects seized by Amrapali with Senior Advocate R Venkatrami once its lease stands cancelled. SC will allow Venkatrami to enter into third-party negotiations in a bid to recover dues through the sale of these properties. Subsequently, ED filed a case of money laundering against Amrapali Group and its promoters who have allegedly failed to provide possession of flats to over 42,000 prospective buyers as per Noida and the Greater Noida Authorities. Amrapali Group's fall, however, is not justice. The Court's persistence in bringing assistance to complete pending projects is the road to justice. Providing homebuyers with complete refund or possession of their flats, even if terribly late is justice. Supreme Court finds itself in the position over not just Amrapali but Unitech's matter as well. SC on July 9 had observed in the Unitech matter that the government should involve a third-party like state-funded NBCC to complete the projects. On the macro front, it is the Centre who has to initiate restoration of these losses induced by directors/owners of these defunct building groups. NBCC also has to divide its attention and work on successful and timely completion of all the pending properties as homebuyers have no alternative but to stay positive about getting their fortunes back.

While the Amrapali matter will be tabled again on August 9, ED has the job to lay the groundwork of recovering money from all personnel who have benefitted from the homebuyers' money siphoned through these projects; the recovered money is to be used for completing the pending work. Thought the Supreme Court will now ensure the completion of these projects, it remains a fact that real-estate, through the demeaning picture painted by these tainted building groups, has sucked out both the money and trust off the middle-class segment who had hoped for better living houses. While largely curtailed to Delhi-NCR, there are several reeling under the same adversity in other cities as well and this is when only Tier-1 cities had the opportunity to have high-rise apartments and affordable luxurious homes. Supreme Court's pursuit for justice also brings the question of ensuring state-involvement in construction of ambitious projects since the acts of the culprit groups only cite a pattern which robbed thousands surmounting to million. Regulations, however, remain the best tools to curtail the scope of corruption on the builders' part and tightening a grip on those to prevent anyone from fooling others will have to be the norm if real-estate has to be protected from gold-hawks.

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