In a rare occurrence, the director of a construction company has been sentenced to two years’ simple imprisonment because he failed to give the conveyance of a Ghatkopar building even 21 years after the society was formed. Kiran Amin, director of Satellite Developers Pvt Lt, was found guilty as per provisions of the Maharashtra Ownership of Flats Act (MOFA) by the Vikhroli magistrate’s court.
It was back in 1989 that the completion certificate of the building was given, and society was registered in 1996, but conveyance is yet to be given.
Ravindra Hingwala, one of the flat owners, moved court in 2006. Referring to this, metropolitan magistrate V V Patil said, “For more than 10 years, the complainant is awaiting conveyance of the plot, which the accused failed to give. Considering the facts of the case, the conduct of the accused and intention of the legislature behind enacting the legislation, I am of the view that the accused be dealt with necessary punishment under the Act.”
Rejecting the defence plea that the complainant could not move court on his own in the absence of the cooperative housing society, the court relied on the observations of the sessions court which had dismissed the appeal of the accused against the issuance of process in the case. The sessions court had observed that a complainant, being a member of the society, is entitled to get conveyance on his behalf from the promoters under Section 11 of the MOFA. “Promoters are under legal obligation to convey the title and execute the documents in his favour. They did not convey with this legal provision. The complainant is, thus, an aggrieved person,” the sessions court had said.
Hingwala told the magistrate’s court that he had purchased the flat from Jasmine Builders Pvt Ltd, but in 1992 the rights and liabilities of Jasmine Builders became the property of Satellite Developers. Hingwala said that according to Section 11 of the MOFA, Amin should have conveyed the property to the society within four months from the registration of documents.
But the defence contended that the fact that the question of conveyance is presently a subject of arbitration is a reasonable cause for not handing over possession of the plot to the complainant and therefore, no offence under Section 13(1) of MOFA is made out. This section provides that if the promoter is able to show reasonable cause because of which it is not possible to give conveyance, same could not constitute an offence under this Act. It also contended that new buildings were constructed by the accused in 2003 on the same land, which is required to be conveyed to Gayatri Dham, therefore conveyance cannot be executed in favour of it.
However, the magistrate’s court pointed out that the grounds of reasonable excuse raised by the accused has been rejected by the Bombay high court and Supreme Court over the years in appeals filed by the accused. “Moreover, the offence was committed in June 1996, and there was no other construction on the land except Gayatri Dham building. Therefore, there was no excuse for the accused to withhold the conveyance,” the magistrate held.