'It is the buyer who needs protection of law'

'It is the buyer who needs protection of law'

Former Union urban development minister Ajay Maken, under whom the first Real Estate Bill was formulated during erstwhile UPA-II regime, says the Narendra Modi government made alterations in the proposed legislation to allow builders continue “harassing and cheating” home buyers. “It is the buyer who needs protection, not builders,” he said in an interview to Prakash Kumar of Deccan Herald, dubbing the government’s bill as “pro-builder.” Excerpts:  

Why Congress is opposing the Bill?

We are not against the Bill. We are against the changes made in the Bill. The Bill we introduced was intended to protect the interest of home buyers. But, this government has completely change the dynamics of the bill and made it pro-builders.

What are amendments which you are against?

Out of 117, we have identified 20 key amendments which are detrimental to the buyers’ interest. We introduced the term carpet area in our bill and clearly defined it. We said carpet area will be the net usable area in an apartment, excluding the area of the wall. But, the government has amended it and added one explanation saying the net usable area would mean the rentable area as defined in National Building Code 2005 or its latest versions.

What does it mean? 

The idea behind introducing the term carpet area in our bill was to bring transparency in the offer that a builder makes to a home buyer. If it is 1000 square feet carpet area, the home buyer would exactly know that it is 1000 square feet without walls. But what do you comprehend by the term rentable area as defined in the National Building Code? It says rentable area would mean ‘X’ per cent of total glazed balcony or ‘Y’ per cent of the total unglazed balcony. What does it mean? No ordinary buyer understands it. Besides, the National Building Code is brought by an executive order. And the government can change it anytime without even coming to Parliament. So, this is something very damaging. The basic purpose of the original bill was to bring in transparency but you are using confusing terms to allow builders to continue cheating and harassing home buyers.

The whole idea of bringing such legislation is defeated. How can we accept it?

Some objections to the present bill relate to delaying the projects. Delay in completion of projects is the most important problem which buyers face. Hence, no where in our Bill we provided that a builder can get extension on projects for such and such reasons. But, the government has changed it. Now, it has been provided that if a builder or a promoter is unable to get completion certificate or any other approval, he can further delay the project. In the parent bill, the provision was that a builder cannot start a project unless he has all requisite approvals. So, from where the question of further approval comes? The builder can now, through a friendly person, put a PIL in the court or a case against himself. Both friendly lawyers pitted against each other can fight in the court and delay the completion of project.

What about changes in the sanctioned plans?

In the earlier bill, no where did we provide that a builder can alter the sanctioned plan after signing of an agreement with a buyer. But the government has allowed the builders to carry out minor alteration just by informing the buyers. No where in the present bill, has the government defined what is meant by minor alteration. One major alteration can always be broken into various minor alterations. Buyers have regularly been facing these kinds of problems. We had put in strong measures in our bill to protect buyers from such a practice. Besides, we had also provided that 70 per cent of the money collected from buyers or less as decided by the state governments should be kept aside for the project so that money is not spent in any other project. But, the government has reduced it to 50 per cent.   

Are you suggesting this will lead to a nexus between the authority and the builders?

Yes. It will encourage nexus. What a buyer has to offer to a regulatory authority member? But these big builders have jobs to offer to these members. The government is officially allowing the builders to bribe and allure regulatory members.

What is the fate of the bill now?

They will have to remove the amendments. Pressure of the home buyer is growing.  Even many of the BJP leaders who had met me are aghast with the kind of changes made in the bill. Our bill was 100 percent pro buyer. They (NDA) are saying builders do not need any protection. But builders have all the protection they need. It is the buyer which needs protection of law.

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