How SC stood by Amrapali homebuyers ensured funding for stalled projects

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New Delhi, April 24

In 2015, real estate firm Amrapali Group was at its peak — with around 50 projects spread across 24 cities. Also, former Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was one of its brand ambassadors.

However, the spell of opulence did not last long for the firm's top management. On February 28, 2019, the Supreme Court sent the group's CMD Anil Sharma and two directors to police custody for siphoning off money invested by the homebuyers.

They continue to remain behind bars. However, their incarceration has not lessened the worries of thousands of homebuyers, who had invested their life savings in the company's projects.

The Amrapali Group had created an intricate mesh of deception, which included no customer data for thousands of homebuyers, profile funding etc.

In July 2019, the Supreme Court cracked the whip on the real estate firm for breaching the trust of the homebuyers. The verdict gave relief to over 42,000 homebuyers.

The top court ordered the cancellation of the registration of the Amrapali group under real estate law RERA and took it upon itself to ensure construction of the stalled housing projects.

The apex court appointed a court-receiver, senior advocate R. Venkataramani, to oversee construction and directed the state-run National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) to complete the housing projects.

The court's receiver faced a herculean task to secure funds for the unfinished projects, against the backdrop that the real estate company had created a complex web of sham transactions.

However, it did not deter the top court, which relentlessly pursued the funding for stalled housing projects with banks and never let the matter run out of steam.

It was unprecedented that a constitutional court went all out to ensure that homebuyers' dream to own a house is not shattered.

On March 7, the Supreme Court had directed the consortium of banks to follow the footsteps of Bank of Baroda, which issued a sanction order to grant funding for the stalled Amrapali housing projects, and take a decision on funding Amrapali projects within two days.

The top court said it hopes the approval order is passed by the banks, since it is in the final stages, and emphasised that the money should be released by the banks before the next date of hearing.

Eventually, a consortium of seven banks granted the final approval to infuse Rs 1,500 crore. On April 4, the top court was informed that Rs 150 crore, first tranche out of Rs 1,500 crore, has been paid to the NBCC.

Getting the banks on board was not easy, and on many occasions, the top court had to press hard that funding of projects does not hit a wall, in connection with documentation.

The consortium of seven banks includes Bank of Baroda, Punjab National Bank, Bank of India, State Bank of India, UCO Bank, Indian Bank, and Punjab & Sindh Bank.

In another relief to several thousand Amrapali homebuyers who booked their flats under the subvention scheme, the Supreme Court on April 18 directed the banks not to impose penalties on default of EMI payment.

A bench comprising Justices U.U. Lalit and Bela M. Trivedi said the accounts of defaulter flat buyers, who had availed the subvention facilities, should not be treated as non-performing asset (NPA), and also their CIBIL score should not be maintained at zero level.

The bench took note of homebuyers' difficulties, but made it clear that after getting possession of the flat, the homebuyer was liable to pay the EMI towards the loan as per the agreement.

The top court said the liability of homebuyers would come into effect from the date when possession of the flat is handed over, and banks can take action if they do not discharge their liability.

The bench said banks should not impose a penalty for default committed by the flat buyers. However, the banks would be entitled to the principal amount as well as interest over it.

The top court asked the banks to regularise the accounts of homebuyers when they approach the concerned lender bank.

Under the subvention scheme, the homebuyer was not required to pay any EMI during the "no EMI period" till the completion and possession of the flat.

Several thousand homebuyers in the Amrapali housing projects availed this scheme. However, they were burdened with the EMIs without getting possession of the flats.


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