Mumbai: Twisting the power of attorney (PoA) made on a stamp paper of Rs 100 to his advantage, a builder allegedly grabbed government land measuring 1,35,502 sq m and traded a major portion back to the government for various projects. The land, worth over Rs 642 crore, originally belonged to a housing society.
But no development took place there for half a century, and the members roped in the accused builder to develop it. But they claim that he forged the PoA and used the land for MMRDA projects to get transfer of development rights (TDR) and floor space index (FSI).
In a petition filed before the City Civil and Sessions Court in December 2011, the residents of Sharad Nagar, Chembur have levelled the accusations against builder Sudhir Shetty, proprietor of M/s Charisma Builders, and officials of the slum rehabilitation authority (SRA) and the BMC. The matter will come up for hearing on March 20.
Charisma Builders allegedly forged power of attorney over the land in 1999, then traded it back with MMRDA.
The petitioners claim that Laxmi Nivas Cooperative Housing Society Ltd (CHSL) was registered in 1948 with 15 promoters. The society acquired the land in what is now a prime location in Chembur from the state government in 1950 to house its members.
Unable to develop the land due to encroachments etc, the society entered into a Development Agreement in 1990 with Charisma to develop about 62,000 sq ft within three years.
The tenements were to be handed over to the 108 members of the society. But no development took place till 1998, until it was announced that the Eastern Freeway would pass through the land.
The petitioners claim that most of the actual promoters of the CHS were of advanced age and some expired between 1990-98.
In 2007, the builder registered a PoA which was prepared and notarised in 1999 by one Narayan K who acted as the society's secretary and gave Shetty the rights to the property. The builder made a conveyance deed and got the society registered for SRA development.
The petitioner Chinnkan John point out the loopholes: the PoA is signed by only one person (Narayan), unlike the norm of 2-3 people who sign any document on behalf of a society; the society's rubber stamp is also missing. Also, the addresses of the giver and receiver are the same the registered office of Charisma Builders.
There are no documents to prove the credentials of the PoA's signatory. There is also no record of the CHS members with any government agency to prove that Naryanan was a member of the society.
Advocate Dinesh Tiwari, the lawyer for petitioners has alleged that builder has used forged documents to claim ownership rights over the entire land. Shetty then handed over a major portion for various government projects (see box) and has availed TDR/FSI facility against the same.
He is now keen to develop the remaining 16,414.30 sq m under the slum rehab scheme and a portion on which the petitioner have their houses. The builder also constructed 32 SRA houses for MMRDA's projected-affected people on an area of 25,937 sq m, of which 13 buildings are still unoccupied.
According to Tiwari, "Our plea to the court is that if the state government had allotted the said land to Shree Laxmi Nivas CHS for construction of houses and if the society failed to develop it for over 50 years, then the suburban collector should have taken back the land.
"Around 25,000 hutments exist today on the land and their occupants have been declared slum dwellings by the state government, and they have required documents to prove their existence," he said.
Tiwari added that the petitioners' fear that the builder has already forged changes in government documents and has become the owner of the property.
"I was born and brought up here, and my parents have lived here for 40 years. The property card reflects my father's name as an occupant and Shree Laxmi Nivas CHS as the owner until 2007.
But in 2008, the property card showed the name of Shetty as the owner. That means I am homeless," said Ashok Agarwal, one of the petitioners.
Mahesh Menon, advocate for builder Sudhir Shetty, said, "My client has not forged any documents. We have relevant documents to prove our claims. We will also prove to the court the existence of Narayan, who was indeed a member of Shree Laxmi Nivas CHSL, who issued the power of attorney (which is duly registered) and made conveyance deed with my client (also registered)."
"The petitioners do not have any locus in this case, as they are not the actual members of the CHS, but are slum dwellers, who are interested in getting a permanent structure to stay under the SRA scheme. Also, builders with vested interests are using slum dwellers to make such baseless and fictitious allegations against my client," he said.
"The slum dwellers are also divided into two groups: one faction supports my client, the other is against him. We have taken thumb impressions, photos and videos of over 700 slum dwellers supporting my client in the SRA project. We will prove our case in the court. I am sure justice will prevail," he added.
Areas of the 1.35 lakh sq m of the land acquired for government projects:
For Bharat Petroleum, MCGM and Railways: 85,976.00 sq m
For Eastern Island Freeway: 2,684.80 sq m
For MMRDA's SRA projects: 2,7215.90 sq m
For MCGM: 3,211.40 sq m
1,35,502 sq m: Total area of the land in Chembur