Cheating Cases Against Builders Criminal, Not Civil: HC
In case a homebuyer is duped by a builder, what is the legal remedy available to him?
Since this fraud is criminal in nature, a criminal case will have to be filed in the court of law. However, that can be done only after the aggrieved buyer lodges a police complaint against this builder. In such situation, the victim would be called by the state as witnesses, and the responsibility to prove the crime would lie of the state prosecutor, and not on the buyer.
It must also be noted that a criminal case can be filed even if there have not been any actual damages, where actions intended to cheat a buyer was taken by the offending party. In case of a civil suit, actual damages must have been occurred for the victim to be able to file a case. Also, in a civil suit the responsibility to prove the offence lies of the victim.
But, what should you do if the police tell you the offence is civil is nature and refuses to file a case against the builder? According to recent ruling by the Bombay High Court (HC), the police cannot do it. While passing its verdict on a petition of Mumbai’s Liberty Garden Cooperative Housing Society, the HC said complaints filed by public, where they allege of being cheated by developers, could not be termed civil disputes, and the police had to probe such cases diligently.
What was the case?
In December 2013, the Malad-located housing society entered into an agreement with K T Group through its three partners (Dhairya Sheth, Sandeep Sheth and Dhruv Sheth) for redevelopment the complex. In January 2015, a commencement certificate was issued for the project and the developer agreed to complete the project in or before 28 months. However, the developer failed to complete the project within the stipulated period, and also refused to make payments towards compensation to the society members since April 2017.
In September 2017, the society approached the suburban Malad Police with a complaint of cheating against the developer.
However, the senior inspector of the police station said the dispute was of civil nature. Subsequently, the society moved the high court.
What is the verdict?
While clearly stating that the offence by the developer was criminal in nature, the HC reprimanded the police for their laggard and irresponsible approach.
"... the police officials in-charge of the police stations are not ready to assist the common man when they seek assistance, and, instead, show them the door by terming their complaints as being civil disputes," the HC said.
"There is no improvement in the approach/conduct of the senior police officers. When the officer/s concerned are directed to remain present before the court and questioned as to what steps they have taken on such complaints, they simply tender a mechanical apology," it further added.
With inputs from Housing News