Allottee questions Shanzil Exclusive project
The Malir cantonment board’s CEO has been directed to provide information on a project called Shanzil Exclusive by M/S Ukasha Associates after a man who bought an apartment in it challenged the way the builder had operated.
Capt Omair Ismail Brohi went to the Right to Information Commission where citizens can ask for information from public bodies. In his RTI request, he said that he had repeatedly asked the Malir cantt board CEO for information on how they approved the building and municipal plans granted to Ukasha.
This case is a sobering reminder of how the construction industry works in Karachi and where regulatory mechanisms are thin. This story provides a few warnings for anyone who is thinking of buying an apartment.
Capt Ismail maintains that the builder started to sell apartments in March 2016 without acquiring permission from the cantt board. The customers stopped paying installments until the builder acquired an NoC in July 2018. But now the builder is demanding escalation charges from them.
Capt Ismail said that an inquiry should be made into how the builder was selling apartments for 2.5 years without official permission or an NoC at its booking office just 4km away from the cantt board office.
Capt Ismail did not keep paying installments after the booking because the builder had not produced an NoC. In fact, he told the builder why he was not going to pay. And then, when the builder acquired an NoC in July 2018, he made all payments (even backdated ones). But then the builder cancelled his allotment.
The builder also ignored the cantt board’s direction not to cancel any allotment till grievances were addressed.
The CBM and builder’s point of view
The builder has justified asking for escalation charges. It says that the ‘Terms and conditions’ agreement states that anyone buying an apartment has to pay escalation charges if they delayed payments to the company or were not regular.
The difficulty is that the cantt board says Capt Ismail booked his apartment without finding out if it had an NoC. And then, Capt Ismail’s allotment was cancelled before the cantt board could act against the builder. The builder had received seven complaints, including Capt Ismail’s. It tackled six of them.
The cantt board maintains that when Capt Ismail and the builder signed their agreement, it was a purely private matter. The Cantonment Board Malir is a municipal authority and it isn’t its job to deal with issues such as escalation charges etc.
The RTI Commission has asked the Malir Cantt Board to explain why it had not given Capt Ismail information. According to the cantt board, the builder said that three out of six allottees have already accepted and paid the documentation and escalation amount and it had the right to cancel bookings if payments not made.
The matter has in the meantime gone to court. It case, Capt Omair Ismail Brohi vs M/s Ukasha Associates and CBM is in the District and Session Court, Malir.
Capt Ismail maintains, however, that those complainants “compromised and paid the illegally demanded amount under pressure and with no hopes of justice from the relevant authorities”.
The cantt board is indeed a municipal authority, but one of its authorities is also to issue an NoC for sale and stop any builder trying to do it without permission in its jurisdiction.
“It is rightly said that while secrecy breeds corruption, transparency serves as an antidote to corrupt practices,” the RTI commission said. “This commission is of the view that if concerned federal public bodies proactively disclose building plans, permissions, notices, permits, agreements and finalised enquiry reports, as required under the Section 5 of the Act, it will lead to reduction of corruption and help bridge trust gap between citizens and public bodies.”