The Maharashtra government’s revised Bill, one with stringent norms, for the Housing Regulatory Authority and Housing Appellate Tribunal was passed by the state assembly, despite opposition from many developers and non-government organisations. Maharashtra Minister for Housing Sachin Ahir, in an interview with Sanjay Jog, talks about the government’s stand. Edited excerpts:
Why is this Bill important, considering the Centre has also moved a similar Bill?
The Maharashtra government had enacted the Maharashtra Ownership Flats (regulation of the promotion of construction, sale, management and transfer) Act, 1963. No state had thought of a similar law. However, the government decided to repeal the Act after 49 years and table a new Bill that paves the way to addressing consumer concerns quickly. The Bill moved by the Centre is for all states. The state government has raised several objections to this, as the provisions in this might not address issues concerning Maharashtra, particularly Mumbai. Therefore, the government had tabled the state Bill in the budget session, and it was referred to a joint select committee to incorporate various suggestions and objections. A revised Bill, tabled last week in the state assembly, was passed on Monday. The assembly also took into account a report submitted by the joint select committee which had looked into 3,221 objections and suggestions for the Bill.
Was the process of tabling the Bill hassle-free?
I must admit there was opposition, especially from the developers’ lobby and non- government organisations. They were objecting to the provision of initiating criminal proceedings against them if found guilty. Some of them were arrogant, despite defaulting in meeting the deadline to complete housing projects and provide amenities assured to flat owners. The Bill also proposes to put in place checks on flat purchasers. There have been complaints of consumers defaulting on their payments after paying 5-10 per cent to the developer. Buyers of flats would now be bound to abide by agreements with developers. The Housing Regulatory Authority and Housing Appellate Tribunal would be vested with wide-ranging powers to deal with such issues in a time-bound manner. The Bill would usher in transparency and discipline in transactions of flats. It would also curb malpractices.
What are the key provisions of the Bill?
There are provisions of penalties—for promoters, developers and consumers. The Bill envisages criminal proceedings against defaulting promoters and developers. A civil court status is being accorded to the tribunal.
Given the Bill has now been passed, what course would it now take?
The Bill would now be sent to the state governor, and then to the President. Simultaneously, the government is working out the fund requirement for the tribunal. The government would also identify members, as well as the chairman, for the body. Rules would also be framed. I hope the Act would come into effect in six months to a year.