HomePress ReleaseMumbai Mirror: Flat buyers win membership fight against SoBo high-rise

Mumbai Mirror: Flat buyers win membership fight against SoBo high-rise

Official orders the society to admit venture capitalist and his mother as new members.

A venture capitalist and his mother, who could not move into their new homes because of a membership spat, have won the first round of their fight against the high-profile Mahalaxmi society.

The assistant registrar (E Division) of societies, Sudam Kathe, has directed Strata CHS, one of the five high-rises inside Planet Godrej complex, to admit Anish Jhaveri and his mother, Minaxi, as new society members within a month.

Strata CHS — where Godrej Consumer Products chairperson Nisaba Godrej stays and Abhishek Bachchan owns a flat — had refused to accept the Jhaveris as members citing unpaid property tax of the two apartments they purchased six months ago. The Jhaveris paid for Rs 9 crore and Rs 5 crore for the tenth floor apartments to the previous owner, Rakesh Shah, apart from transfer and society entry charges totalling Rs 30,000.

After their membership request was turned down, they alleged that the society was trying to punish them for not paying an illegal development fee of over Rs 20 lakh. They, however, could not prove before Kathe that such a demand was made. Strata CHS maintained that property tax dues had forced it to hold back the membership, but Kathe ruled this was not a valid reason and that the money can be recovered later.

The assistant registrar also observed that there was no evidence so far that the previous owner of the two apartments had not paid property tax. “The society does not have any proof that Shah has dues of 5,77,000,” he said.

The society’s chairman, Gurbir Singh, said it would challenge the order, insisting it had legitimate reasons for not granting membership.

All the five towers in Planet Godrej have their own society. One aspect of Strata CHS’s dispute with the Jhaveris is the BMC’s new system for calculating and collecting property tax. Between 2010 and 2015, the society collected property tax according to BMC’s old method. Once the new system was introduced, the bills went up. Advocate GB Nagarsekar, who represented the society, said the total dues of the two apartments in question, once interest was taken into account, rose to over Rs 10 lakh.

Nagarsekar said though the society had approached the Bombay High Court against the civic body’s tax demand, it was important to set aside a contingent fund. Hence, it cannot grant membership without payment of property tax by either Shah or Jhaveris.

But Kathe said in his order: “The society could not give evidence that they have approached the high court against the BMCs tax demand.”

Advocate Hemang Zariwala, who represented the Jhaveris, said the society’s general body had not passed any resolution on the issue.

After the assistant registrar’s order, Minaxi Jhaveri said their stand had been vindicated. She has been paying maintenance for the new property, but has not been able to move in. “At the age of 80, when you dream about staying together with your son, they (societies) make you run from pillar to post and fight for your just rights. It’s disheartening,” she said. “People should welcome new entrants and not create a vitiated environment. I have not been allowed to even shift my furniture to the flat in Strata CHS for the past six months.”

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‘Order sets an example’

Shirish Deshpande, chairperson, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat: “It is a good order that sets an example. Housing societies often make unreasonable demands and most of the people pay up to avoid hassles. Buyers can now challenge the society’s demands.”