NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Friday directed the Centre to come up with a proposal for construction of stalled projects of embattled real estate major Unitech Ltd within ten days, so that over 16,000 hassled homebuyers are not left in lurch. The top court said that the Centre should suggest the modalities and name of the third-party agency like the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) Ltd which could construct the pending projects of Unitech Ltd in a time bound manner.
The Unitech Ltd resisted the suggestion that the pending projects be handed over to a third party like the NBCC and said they were not able to deliver even in the case of Amrapali, another embattled real estate major.
A bench of justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah was told by Attorney General K K Venugopal that a third party could be involved in the construction of pending projects and a high-powered committee headed by a retired high court judge could oversee the construction.
Venugopal said that after consulting with the officials concerned, he can suggest the modalities which can be approved by the court accordingly.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Unitech, said that they have delivered over 17,000 flats out of 29,000.
“Despite all odds, in a total of 74 projects, we have completed over 70 per cent of the work and handed over 17,000 flats to homebuyers,” Singhvi said.
He said that handing over of the projects to a third party would not serve any purpose as the court had seen the work of the NBCC in the Amrapali matter.
Singhvi suggested a plan for completing the pending projects and said that the entire work will be completed in the next three years.
“The homebuyers who are before us invested their money some 10-12 years back and now you are proposing another three years for completing the projects. Question is for how long do these homebuyers wait,” the bench said.
It said that Unitech was saying that the NBCC should not be trusted but the fact is the real estate firm’s plan is such that it does not inspire any confidence and it is subject to availability of funds from a third party.
“We can’t keep the homebuyers who have approached us in lurch. The NBCC is accountable to the government and the government is accountable to its people. We want someone who can be held accountable. As the attorney general has said we will wait for the government to come up with some kind of proposal for completing the pending projects,” the bench said.
The court rejected the application of Unitech Ltd in which they sought court’s permission to continue with the construction of the pending projects.
The bench also granted two weeks’ time to the senior officials of the Unitech Ltd to cooperate with the forensic auditors and provide them with all necessary details.
It asked the forensic auditors to submit their reports in four weeks and posted the matter for further hearing on July 23.
On May 9, the apex court, irked over the non-cooperation of Unitech in the forensic audit, had withdrawn all the facilities given to its promoters, Sanjay Chandra and his brother Ajay Chandra who are lodged in Tihar jail for allegedly siphoning off homebuyers’ money.
The top court had said the Chandra brothers should be treated like ordinary prisoners as per the prison manual of Tihar jail here where they have been lodged since 2017.
In 2017, the apex court had directed the jail authorities to facilitate the Chandras’ meeting with their company officials and lawyers so that they are able to arrange the money for refunding homebuyers as well as for completing the ongoing housing projects.
The court had earlier sought assistance of the attorney general while warning that it could order a CBI probe.
The court had said it would also like to hear from the attorney general on whether the government can take over the management of Unitech Group and its subsidiaries to protect the interest of homebuyers.
The apex court had on January 23 refused to grant bail to the Chandra brothers. It said they had not complied with the October 30, 2017 order which asked them to deposit Rs 750 crore with the court registry by December 31, 2017.
The court had directed the trial court which is seized of the criminal case against the Unitech promoters to proceed expeditiously in the trial.
The Chandras sought bail on the ground that they were complying with the apex court order and had deposited around Rs 481 crore till now.
On December 7, 2018, the apex court has directed a forensic audit of Unitech Ltd and its sister concerns and subsidiaries by Samir Paranjpe, Partner, Forensic and Investigation Services in M/s Grant Thornton India.