SC assures refund or flats, to hassled home buyers of Unitech

[] The Supreme Court has assured hassled home buyers, who had booked flats in Unitech Group’s projects, of refund of their investment or delivery of homes, while cautioning the firm’s promoters that they will not get bail till the customers’ grievances are redressed

While refusing to grant interim bail to jailed Unitech promoters, Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra till September 15, 2017, in a case of alleged forgery lodged by home buyers of its Gurugram-based housing project, the Supreme Court assured that “Whoever (investors) wants their money back, will get their money back and those who want flats, will get their flats.” Compounding the woes of the Chandra brothers, a Delhi court at Saket allowed the police to interrogate them for the next seven days, in connection with three FIRs, alleging that they had cheated home buyers of their hard-earned money in its projects at Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh.

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The development in the trial court happened, hours after the apex court refused interim bail to them in another case. The apex court bench, headed by chief justice Dipak Misra and also comprising justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, appointed advocate Pawan C Aggrawal as an amicus curiae, to assist it in the matter and asked him to furnish details, including the number of projects of the Unitech Group, number of flat buyers seeking either refund or flats, the amount of money already refunded by the group and number of flat buyers who have been paid the principal amount.

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Advocate Abhimanyu Bhandari, appearing for the promoters, said he can pay back money to each investor before the court, but for that he needed to work from his office and raise funds. He sought interim bail for the Chandras and said the investors’ woes can only be solved, if he is allowed to come out of jail. “Giving me interim bail will solve the problem but keeping me in custody will not solve the problem. I have to recover money from various stakeholders, so that I can pay back all those who want their refunds. For that I need to work from office,” Bhandari said. He said the promoters had complied with all conditions imposed by the court and as on date, Rs 20 crores had been deposited, in compliance with the earlier order.

Several advocates tried to intervene in the matter, saying they too had booked flats in the project but had not yet got the refund. “Just because you are member of bar, it does not mean you are above others. You will get the refund on pro-rata basis,” the bench said.

Bhandari argued that his clients had demonstrated their bonafides, by complying with all the conditions and he will return money to everyone.

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“First, we will go project-wise and refund the amount to the consumers on pro-rata basis. We will look into the bail aspect on September 15, 2017,” the court said. The Chandra brothers were seeking interim bail from the apex court, after the Delhi High Court on August 11, 2017, rejected their plea in a criminal case lodged in 2015 by 158 home buyers of Unitech projects – ‘Wild Flower Country’ and ‘Anthea Project’ – situated in Gurugram.

The apex court had on September 1, 2017, said that although it was conscious that it was dealing with an application for bail but ‘the consumers who have invested their money in various projects undertaken by the petitioners cannot be allowed to lurch in the dark. Their problem has to be solved’. It had said that settlement of the problem could take place only in two ways – the consumers who are inclined to take possession of the flats can opt for the same and those who wanted their money back shall get the amount along with interest.

Three cases, in which the Chandras have been remanded to seven-day police custody by a local Delhi court, allege that they had cheated home buyers in its projects at Greater Noida. In one of the three FIRs, it has been alleged that the firm floated a residential project ‘Unitech Verve’ at Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh in 2006, which was booked by complainant Ram Narain Aggarwal, a retired government employee, for an amount of Rs 16.77 lakhs. The flat was scheduled to be delivered to the complainant by December 2009, but he still had not got the possession, the FIR alleged. The other two FIRs also alleged non-delivery of flats to hassled home buyers and fraud committed on them by the promoters.

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