PMO’s office comes to the rescue of Borivli residents

MUMBAI: Residents of Rishikesh Park, Borivli (West), are savouring a rare victory over a builder who they alleged tried to usurp their layout‘s floor space index (FSI) worth Rs 232 crore to build a tower. When police and civic authorities snubbed them, they filed an online complaint with the prime minister’s office (Centralised Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System) last year. The PMO referred the grievance to the state urban development department.

“The BMC was finally forced to cancel the preliminary construction permission given to the builder,“ said a jubilant Ketan Shah, a resident authorized by the 330 flat owners to lead the battle. Shah said he filed over 200 RTI applications before he discovered the civic building proposals department in Kandivli had “illegally“ sanctioned the builder’s plan using the FSI belonging to them.

The developer, RK Builder, was entitled to build 35,000 sq ft. “However, he grabbed the FSI of the entire layout belonging to our six housing societies in Rishikesh Park, submitting plans for a buildable area of 1.51 lakh sq ft,” said Shah. Residents said without the FSI they would have never been able to redevelop their societies in future.

A senior civic official confirmed the builder’s preliminary construction nod (IOD) has not been revalidated.“We have sought a legal opinion,“ he said, adding the residents had complained to the PMO.

The builder, Shreechand Punjabi, said his preliminary approval had lapsed and he would apply for a fresh one. “The residents are misleading everyone and harassing me. These are wrong allegations and I intend to serve them a legal notice,“ he told media. Punjabi added he constructed the Rishikesh Park layout and had the plans passed way back in 1983. “I am a senior citizen; they are ruining my reputation,“ he alleged.

The six society buildings are on a five-acre plot, of which the developer still has construction rights on an acre. In 2006, when the builder first submitted his plans, the permission was only for a ground-plus-five-storey building. In 2013, the BMC approved a fresh plan for a 23-storey tower with two wings and 200 flats.

“Local civic officials were hand-in-glove with the builder and behaving like his liaison team. How could they approve such a plan using our FSI without informing the existing societies?“ said Shah. Last February, the six societies decided to pursue the builder, who had failed to convey the land to them. It was then that they stumbled upon the building plans and issued a legal notice to the BMC, pointing out the illegalities. They did not receive a reply.

The residents then filed RTI applications. Last July, the residents filed a complaint with the PMO, stating: “BMC building department, Kandivli office, is acting under influence of builders and unknown political persons. By using FSI belonging to the six societies, it is a theft of Rs 232 crore. We wrote through advocates, but the BMC is not helping. The police too are not acting despite our complaint…”

Said Shah, “Officials told us we should approach the court. This was a ploy to entangle us in a legal dispute, which would have dragged on for years.“

Credits ET Realty

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