Jayshree Sukhadia, a resident of Chira Bazaar, moved the MahaRERA in October 2020, after the promoter of a project in Neral, allegedly demanded an additional amount and failed to refund Rs 13 lakh paid as a consideration for a flat booked in 2017, after she sought a refund.
The first hearing on Sukhadia’s complaint was held in October 2021, that is a year after filing of the complaint and the matter was referred to the conciliation forum. After conciliation failed in March 2022, no date has been given for a hearing.
Sukhadia is not the only home buyer, who has been struggling for speedy justice. Of the 21,274 cases filed with the MahaRERA till date, as many 6,989 cases are in the process of being heard or are pending. Though the regulatory body was set up to dispense justice to home buyers, who are being harassed by unscrupulous promoters, the delay in hearing complaints has adversely affected home buyers. Some of the home buyers prefer to file complaints with the consumer court than with the MahaRERA.
The MahaRERA authorities attribute the delay in conducting hearings and disposing complaints to the vacancies in the regulatory authority. Currently, only two members, including the chairman, are hearing complaints creating a backlog. Despite protests and representations, the state government has not replaced the members, who completed their terms earlier.
Anil Dsouza, secretary of the MahaRERA Bar Association, says, “In all other courts, the next date set for hearing is at least within two to three months. But in MahaRERA, the date for the next hearing itself takes more than a year. Matters are often adjourned sine die, which means without giving the next date. How can you operate with a reduced number of benches, when the number of complaints is only increasing?”
“Around 300 fresh complaints are filed with MahaRERA in a month. However, almost a similar number of complaints are being disposed of by the two benches in a month. For the last two years, MahaRERA has had only two members apart from the adjudicating members. The government did try to appoint additional members. However, for various reasons, the appointments did not fructify. Appointment of only one member would resolve the problem and clear the backlog of complaints,” said a MahaRERA official.
Valsa Nair Singh, additional chief secretary, housing department, did not respond to this correspondent’s call and text message seeking comment.
Advocate Godfrey Pimenta, of the Watchdog foundation said, “Section 21 of the Real Estate (Regulatory and Development) Act, 2016, mandates that “Authority shall consist of a Chairperson and not less than two whole time members to be appointed by the government. As on date, MahaRERA has a chairperson and only one member. The Adjudication Officer appointed under Section 71 of RERA cannot be taken into consideration for the purposes of composition of members mandated under Section 21 of RERA.”
Godfrey pointed out that the Real Estate (Regulatory and Development) Act, 2016, also mandates disposal of complaints within a period of 60 days. “However, the same cannot be achieved in MahaRERA, because vacancies have not been filed by the state government. While filling the vacancies, the state should appoint members with judicial background, instead of appointing retired IAS officers,” Godfrey added.
“We have written to the chief minister, the deputy chief minister and the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court to look into the appointment of additional members,” added Dsouza.