Panchkula, HARYANA — In 2004, when Col. Bahadur Singh Rangi (Retd.) used his savings and pension money to buy some land in Amravati Enclave, a sprawling township at the foothills of the Himalayas, he thought he was getting a great deal.
The society was close to the army canteen and military hospital, and had hundreds of multi-storied apartments, along with shopping malls and restaurants.
“It seemed like nothing less than a paradise for serving and retired defence personnel like me,” Col. Rangi told HuffPost India.
15 years later, he is one among hundreds of people, many of them either part of or retired from the armed forces, trapped in a double bind, much of which will be familiar to many frustrated homebuyers across the country.
An administrative deadlock means that Amravati Enclave plot owners don’t have ownership rights over the land they bought, even as a clause inserted by the developer in the sale deeds has made it almost impossible for them to sell or transfer the property.
Though Haryana’s Town and Country Planning Department approved the Amravati Enclave township, spread over 118 acres on the Kalka-Shimla national highway, back in 1999, the district administration still hasn’t incorporated this in its revenue records.
The people who bought the land didn’t know they were getting only occupational, not ownership rights. Majority of the area inside Amravati Enclave is still classified as agricultural land.
Adding to this headache is the fact that the developer, Amarnath Aggarwal Group (ANA), included a ‘No Objection’ clause in the conveyance deed, which prevents buyers from selling or transferring their plots without written approval from the company. Though the Haryana government had, in 1999, issued a notification asking all private developers to remove the clause, all of ANA’s existing sale deeds till date still include it.
Virbhan Garg, the estate officer at Amravati Enclave, told HuffPost India that though the company has excluded the clause from all the conveyance deeds executed after the government’s order, it cannot be removed from those done earlier.
Homeowners are outraged.
“Why should my children beg in front of the coloniser’s (developer’s) children to sell a property which I had purchased years ago? What stops a coloniser from removing the ‘No Objection’ clause even when I made full and final payment against the plot?” asked Col. Rangi, who is also a former president of the Democrats Welfare Association Of Amravati Enclave Residents (DWAAR).
No khasra, no rights
In 2008, four years after Rangi bought a 1 kanal plot (around 5,445 sq. ft) in the township through a conveyance deed (transfer of land title), he and his son approached State Bank of India for a loan against the land to construct a house. The bank refused their request, saying that the mutation of the plot hadn’t been done.
Mutation refers to the rectification in the records of the municipal authorities (in the case of urban properties) and local revenue officers (in case of other properties), replacing the name of the owner with that of the new owner.
“The officials asked us to either get the mutation done or else get a letter for ‘permission to mortgage’ from the builder,” said Col. Rangi.
He said the area revenue officer has refused to carry out the mutation of any of the plots as their conveyance deed does not mention a khasra number.
Interestingly, while the state’s revenue department has refused to acknowledge Rangi and hundreds of other buyers residing inside Amravati Enclave as the plot ‘owners’ in the absence of any mutation, the Town and Country Planning Department says that mutation is not necessary for plots of a residential project approved by it.
The project was approved by the Town and Country Planning Department in 1999 and a licence number issued under the provisions of the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Act, 1975, and permission to develop the enclave granted under section 11 of the Punjab New Capital (Periphery) Control Haryana Amendment Act, 1971.
While the state’s revenue department has refused to acknowledge Rangi and hundreds of other buyers residing inside Amravati Enclave as the plot ‘owners’ in the absence of any mutation, the Town and Country Planning Department says that mutation is not necessary for plots of a residential project approved by it
“According to the Act, mutation is not required for a plot purchased in a residential project approved by the Town and Country Planning Department. Only a registered conveyance or sale deed is done in such cases,” K. Makrand Pandurang, Director General of Town and Country Planning in Haryana, told HuffPost India.
However, when asked which section of which Act includes this provision, he asked for some time to respond. HuffPost India will update this story with Pandurang’s response once we receive it. The aggrieved residents have also claimed that while the DG has mentioned this provision verbally to them, he refused to assure the same in written order.
Balkar Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Panchkula, told HuffPost India that he ordered an enquiry into the complaints raised by the Amravati Enclave residents around six months ago but is yet to receive a report from the tehsildar.
However, in a letter written to the aggrieved Welfare Association of Amravati Enclave in August 2016, the Kalka tehsildar said that the sale deeds registered in the sub registrar office at Kalka mention only the plot number and area.
“While incorporating and sanctioning the mutation in favour of the purchase, khewat/khatauni and khasra numbers are essential to maintain a record of village land. Nowhere in the sale deeds of Amravati Township, khasra number is mentioned. You are requested to fulfil the discrepancies and then only the mutation can be incorporated in your favour,” stated the letter.
“The concerned deputy commissioners are playing a cat-and-mouse game with us but are unable to update the land records since 1999. The incumbent deputy commissioner too has claimed helplessness and asked us to approach Haryana Real Estate Regulatory Authority (HRERA),”said Col. N.R. Sharma (retd.), former secretary of DWAAR.
HRERA was set up in 2017 to regulate and promote the real estate sector and to ensure the sale of land, apartments and buildings in an efficient and transparent manner. A delegation of residents met HRERA representatives, but there has been no progress so far.
HuffPost India made repeated attempts to contact HRERA chairman Rajan Gupta over phone but didn’t receive a response.
Occupants, not owners
Last year, Haryana chief minister Khattar had announced that mutation must be done along with the plot registry to prevent fraud and harassment of homebuyers. He also said that if there is an error or fraud in the land registry process, the concerned tehsildar would be held responsible.
But none of this has solved the problem faced by the Amravati residents. Both DG Pandurang and DC Singh have not acknowledged the Haryana CM’s order. A confusion whether the order also pertains to old cases remains a burning issue.
Sec. 8(4) of Haryana Development and Regulation Of Urban Areas Act, 1975, holds the developer and the Town and Country Planning Department responsible for ensuring that the land title is transferred to the plot holder.
Social worker Babita Talwar, who lives in the society, told HuffPost India that plot owners had been given possession of the land only as occupants, not owners.
“Despite paying the full amount, we are staying in our own house as an occupant. Despite clear directions from Haryana government, the district officials have failed to grant us complete ownership rights,” she said.
HuffPost India has seen the occupation certificate issued by the Town and Country Planning Department.
Hargobind Goyal, director of ANA, told HuffPost India that he was unaware ofany of the orders issued by the Haryana CM and also the directions of the Town and Country Planning department to remove the ‘No Objection clause’ from the conveyance deeds.
“We are only following the footsteps of Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), whereby it only provides plot number and not any khasra number to their allottees,” said Goyal.
He also pleaded ignorance of the directions issued by T.L Satyaprakash, Director of T&CP, Haryana, dated 13th July, 2017 whereby ANA was asked to remove ‘NOC’ clause from the conveyance deeds and not to claim any such parity with HUDA.
“Accordingly, the coloniser is directed to remove this condition of NOC from the agreement,” states the order, a copy of which is available with HuffPost India.
Hargobind Goyal, director of ANA, told HuffPost India that though the company can provide the khasra numbers on which the township was developed, it can’t do this for individual plots.
Garg, the estate officer, also told HuffPost India why the company can’t provide khasra numbers to the plot owners.
“Only 48% of the land inside the township can be sold as plots. Once a layout plan was made and approved by the town planning department, it is almost impossible to identify the khasra number of each plot as the whole land gets converted to a complete township with lot of public utility and common areas like community centres, parks, clubs and roads. How can we allocate the same khasra number to so many plot owners together?”
The area residents’ fight to gain control over their own property has been going on for almost two decades now. Dozens of complaints made to Haryana CM Khattar, former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and high-ranking police officials haven’t worked.
In 2010, Amravati Enclave’s Resident Welfare Association (RWA) filed a civil writ petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on behalf of over two dozen plot owners. This was later withdrawn by a former RWA president Shamsher Sharma through his lawyer Deepender Singh.
“As the township is approved and registered by the Town and Country Planning Department, there is no need to get the mutation done for individual plots. In such cases, the ownership of a plot is known by the plot numbers and not by the Khasra numbers,” Deepender told HuffPost India.
But the land records for the plots still say the land is used for agricultural purposes, and the company name ‘Aggarwal Investment Pvt Limited’, Bathinda, Punjab is mentioned as the owner.
“This is because the township is registered on the name of the company and will not change until mutation of each plot is done separately by the plot owners,” said the lawyer.
The area residents in January this year filed another case in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, demanding that the district authorities perform the mutation of their plots purchased inside Amravati Enclave.