Litigations have been flying thick and fast at L&T South City apartments, one of the premium residential complexes in south Bengaluru. Six court cases have been filed between the apartment owners, land owner and the developer within the last two years. South City is located at Mico-Arekere Layout, off Bannerghatta Road.
The main contention is regarding two deeds that the original land owner Dinesh Ranka made to the BDA – one in 1996 and another in 2006 – relinquishing 12 of the total 34 acres of the group housing complex land to the BDA. The property is a joint venture between Dinesh Ranka (owner) and Larsen and Toubro Limited (developer). The 12 acres includes a 5.5 acre park with children’s play area and a 60-feet road. When relinquished, the park becomes public and so does the road.
South City residents accuse Ranka and L&T of not informing them about the relinquishment deed before sale. "None of the documents – the marketing documents, Agreement To Sell (ATS), legal opinion from L&T’s counsel or the sale deed – mention anything about the relinquishment to BDA. When the first relinquishment deed was made in ’96, the buildings were not occupied. But at least the second deed in 2006 should have been made after consulting us," says R Rajagopalan, Vice President of SUGRUHA (South City Group Housing Apartment Owners’ Association).
Neither the layout map of South City given as part of the marketing material to prospective buyers nor the BDA plan sanction mention the relinquishment.
Events at L&T South City
• 1996: Ranka makes the first deed to BDA, allowing the park, civic amenities site and internal roads to be relinquished
• 1999-present: Sale of apartments in various towers as towers come up
• 2006: Another relinquishment deed made, specifying that 12 acres of land and some area marked for road widening will be handed over to BDA
• 2008: Apartment owners became aware of the relinquishment deed(s) and file two injunction suits against construction of compound walls
• 2009: Formation of apartment owners’ association SUGRUHA
• 2009: Declaration suit filed by SUGRUHA claiming ownership of entire 34 acres
• 2009: L&T files case against apartment owners for disrupting wall construction
• 2010: Dinesh Ranka files two cases; one claiming SUGRUHA is invalid, another against residents claiming they attempted to assault him
-Navya P K
A top official at L&T, speaking to Citizen Matters on condition of anonymity says that copies of work orders mentioning relinquishment were given to residents at the time of sale. "We gave all work order and plan sanction copies to individual buyers. Everything has been done as per law," he said.
SUGRUHA denies this. The association says that residents came to know about the proposed relinquishment only when L&T constructed a boundary wall in 2006, separating the apartment complex from the ‘relinquished’ 12 acres. Another wall was also built along the eastern side of the complex relinquishing land for widening of the public road outside the complex.
Some residents filed injunction suits and obtained stays on the construction of both walls in 2008. L&T challenged the order saying that the suits were filed by individual owners and not in a representative capacity, after which the stays were removed. The owners then got together to form the association SUGRUHA the same year and filed the same cases again representing all owners. The association which was formed with 428 owners now has more than 800 members.
The case is still going on in the City Civil Court at Cauvery Bhavan. SUGRUHA has also filed a declaration suit claiming that the entire 34 acres belong to them.
Meanwhile L&T and Ranka have refused to recognize SUGRUHA, arguing that the Deed of Declaration (DoD) that was made while forming the association was inappropriate. Ranka has filed a case against the 428 apartment owners who formed the association, and that case is also pending.
L&T says that the DoD was factually wrong as it declares the entire 34 acres as belonging to the owners and makes no mention of relinquishment. But apartment owners say that those deeds do not have to be mentioned as they are not mentioned in the sale deed. "Why would we willingly insert a clause that will allow our land to be taken away?" Rajagopalan says.
Residents say that the relinquishment will enable Ranka, who owns 1.15 acres of land ‘inside’ the apartment complex, to start commercial activities. This allegation arose when Ranka let a part of his villa for the opening of a ‘Namdhari’ retail outlet. Ranka’s bungalow is adjacent to the road which is proposed to be made open to public.
Citizen Matters could not reach Dinesh Ranka as he was travelling. His office said he will get back.
In 2009, L&T filed cases and obtained restraining orders on 12 owners, whom they accused of disrupting construction of walls.
L&T says that the apartment owners are filing cases against the company as it is a soft target. "Many residents have not paid their maintenance dues. These people are the ones that create problems," claims KV Venkatesh, Executive Vice-President at L&T. Apartment owners say that the maintenance fee has been paid by all, but the two parties have not reached a consensus on the amount. ⊕