The residents of the illegal Gulistan Apartments on Ismail Curtay Road, Pydhonie, said they will approach the court against the landowner and the developer. The plea in the court would be to seek refund and not penal action.
On Tuesday, when the BMC began demolition of the building, 90 families put up a strong resistance and refused to budge despite broken walls and ripped floors. On Saturday, when the Free Press Journal reporter visited the spot, they were moving out while cursing the landlord and developer. Many of them had given up their legal homes to buy flats here in 2018-19. Its illegal status was discussed in the assembly four years after the building came up.
The BMC has punctured the walls of the top two floors of the mezzanine plus nine-storeyed structure that allegedly came up in three months with over 90 rooms.
Mohammed Hussain, a resident of a third-floor flat said he and his three brothers own nine houses in the building and the collective fraud amounts to Rs 25 crore.
He said, “We paid Rs 20-25 lakh for each flat and want our money back. We grew up in this locality and knew the developer and the landlord. So we don’t want any other action but a refund.” He claimed that they were also paying rent as per the pagdi system, but did not show the rent receipt.
Iqbal Wadia, who residents claim is the landlord and cheated them, denied the allegations. He said, “I am not the landlord anymore. My cousin is. I will share his number or have him call you. It was a partnership company from which we resigned in 2015. These people are blackmailers and are extorting us. I will file a defamation case against them.”
He said, in 2019 there was an investigation and he had informed the police of the situation. Wadia, however, did not share any letter he had sent to the police or other authorities.
The residents, meanwhile, claimed they did not know of the illegality and that the landlord hid four notices from the BMC before they got to know of the fifth one after the police visited the spot. “The BMC has sacked some officers, but is that enough? What happens to our lives? When the case was being fought, we even shelled out money for that,” said Rohila Memon, a fifth-floor resident.
Hussain claimed that the landlord asked for extra Rs 12 lakh each and offered to build a new tower when the case was underway. He said they were offered a bigger area of 350 sq ft instead of the current 125 sq ft. “He has many properties around,” claimed Hussain as some other residents gathered around him.
“This area has many illegal constructions and buildings. When he assured us that he will make everything legal, we believed him because none of his earlier buildings were demolished,” claimed Nasir Khan, who had two rooms on the sixth floor.
“I put all my money from insurance when my husband passed away,” said Sana Khatri, adding, “When there was electricity, water and lift, we thought everything was legal.”