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You’ve been given lassi, now you want malai too: Supreme Court slams Amrapali homebuyers, asks them to pay deposits if they want flats

New Delhi: This time, the Supreme Court has come down heavily on flat buyers. On Friday (September 3), the apex court warned that homebuyers who want to get possession of their flats in Noida and Greater Noida’s Amrapali Group projects – those that have been stalled due to problems – must clear their dues as per the payment plan. If they fail to do so, their units can be cancelled and will be considered as unsold inventory, the court warned.

Several homebuyers who had bought these apartments many years ago, but they have not been paying deposits for completion of the projects. These projects were taken over by the National Buildings Construction Corporation Ltd (NBCC), the government construction firm, after the Amrapali Group failed to deliver the flats despite taking huge sums from homebuyers.

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A special bench of Justice UU Lalit and Ajay Rastogi observed that the home buyers are under the impression that the court is facilitating construction of their stalled flats and managing funds and they are at a convenience to pay their dues, whenever they like. “They will have to strictly follow their payment plans, else their unit will be cancelled and will be considered as unsold inventory,” the bench said.

The bench while referring to home buyers said, “It’s like you have been given lassi (buttermilk) and now you want malai (cream) on top of that!”
The top court remarks came after senior advocate R Venkataramani, appointed as court receiver, submitted that some mistakes have been noticed in the list of 9,538 flats, which are unclaimed or booked on a fictitious name or are a benami property and is being corrected and the final list will be published in two-three days.

Advocate ML Lahoty, assisted by advocate Anchit Sripat appearing for home buyers, said that he had some discussions with officials of the NBCC recently in which they have said that if Rs 200 crores are made available to them, then the company would be in a position to handover around 2000-2500 flats situated in stalled projects of Amrapali Group by December, 2021. Then the bench asked Lahoty, will all the home buyers especially of these 2000-2500 units be able to clear their dues by October 15 as per the payment plan.

The bench said that it can direct that if the home buyers fail to make payment of their dues their entitlement to the flats may be cancelled.
“Homebuyers want the flats but don’t want to pay the money. They just want the NBCC to construct the flats and hand over to them,” the bench observed.

The bench asked Venkataramani, that why there was such delay by home buyers to pay their dues and suggested that he should issue notice to the persons, who have not cleared their dues saying that if the payments are not paid, their allotments will be cancelled. Venkataramani said that most of the home buyers are paying their dues as per the payment plan except for those whose payment is through bank loans, which have been stuck for one problem or other.

On August 13, the top court had said that there are two categories of home buyers–first category is of 9,538 home buyers who have neither registered so far in the Customer Data maintained by the office of the Receiver, nor have made any payments, subsequent to the judgment of the Court in July-2019. It had noted, in its order, that there is a second category of 6,210 home buyers, who have registered themselves in the Customer Data but have not made any payment since the judgment of this court in July 2019.

Senior advocate Siddharth Dave, appearing for NBCC said that despite the implications on account of COVID-19 Pandemic, NBCC is making all efforts towards the successful completion of various projects of the Amrapali group situated in Noida and Greater Noida. He said that at present, 10 projects in Noida and 12 projects in Greater Noida are under execution involving 45,957 units with sanctioned project cost of Rs 8025.78 Crores.

Lahoty suggested that sale of unused/permissible FAR (Floor Area Ratio) can fetch an amount of over Rs 1000 crores and therefore, the said issue can be considered by the court on priority. He said that large numbers of home buyers, who have booked the flat in Amrapali projects under the subvention scheme, are suffering due to the default of the developer, as the flat buyers have started receiving demand notices from the Banks and have been threatened with recovery proceedings.

The top court asked the banks to respond to the intervention applications filed by such home buyers within a week. Venkataramani told the bench that six banks, which include Bank of Baroda, UCO Bank and Bank of India, have formed a consortium to fund the stalled projects of Amrapali Group and are likely to start funding the stalled Projects within a month.

Dave pointed to the top court that a writ petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court by a firm seeking to be appointed as channel partner for sale of housing units and commercial areas of various erstwhile Amrapali Projects at Noida and Greater Noida. The bench directed that the said writ petition be transferred to the top court. On August 14, the top court had initiated a process to cancel bookings of over 9,538 Amrapali project flats, which are unclaimed or booked in the name of fictitious people or are benami property, to fund stalled projects.

The apex court in its July 23, 2019 verdict had cracked the whip on errant builders for breaching the trust reposed by home buyers and ordered the cancellation of the registration of the Amrapali Group under real estate law RERA, and ousted it from prime properties in the NCR by nixing the land leases. Amrapali Group directors Anil Kumar Sharma, Shiv Priya and Ajay Kumar are behind bars on the top court’s order.