Probes go on as Chintels Paradiso residents seek early end - Hindustan Times

Probes go on as Chintels Paradiso residents seek early end

ByLeena Dhankhar and Abhishek Behl
Feb 10, 2023 12:04 AM IST

The ceiling collapse in Tower D of Chintels Paradiso on Feb 10, 2022 left 36 families homeless. A year on, residents grapple with authorities to seek compensation and justice

One year after a building in Chintels Paradiso, Sector 109, partially collapsed killing two people, residents of the society are still waiting for justice and closure.

Residents are blaming the state government for not acting with alacrity on this matter and are planning a protest and candle march at the mini-secretariat on Friday and at their condominium in the evening. (Vipin Kumar/HT Photos)
Residents are blaming the state government for not acting with alacrity on this matter and are planning a protest and candle march at the mini-secretariat on Friday and at their condominium in the evening. (Vipin Kumar/HT Photos)

Authorities, residents say, are yet to announce the final compensation amount for the owners of 64 flats in Tower D, which is set to be demolished sometime soon, and it has takenalmost a year for the state government to transfer the case to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Residents and flats owners fear that the CBI probe will start from scratch and further delay justice. To top off their woes, Chintels India Limited, the developer, is seeking another structural audit to be carried out by a different agency.

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Residents are blaming the state government for not acting with alacrity on this matter and are planning a protest and candle march at the mini-secretariat on Friday and at their condominium in the evening. “We are protesting the failure of the authorities to provide flat owners, who have lost their houses and are living in temporary accommodation, with compensation. The fate of residents of Tower E and Tower F is also hanging in the balance as the structural audit report of the two towers has not been made public,” said Rakesh Hooda, president, Chintels Paradiso Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA).

On February 10 last year, two women were killed after six floors of Tower D partially collapsed. According to the district administration, repair work was in progress in the living room of the a flat on the sixth floor, when its roof collapsed, leading to all the floors underneath it caving in. The incident led to major protests by residents across the city, prompting the state government to register cases against the developer, and form a district investigation committee to probe the matter.

In the last week of February, a Class 11 student, whose mother was killed in the incident, petitioned the Supreme Court, demanding an independent probe into the incident, a structural audit by IIT Delhi of the construction material used by the builder/developer, and punitive damages and compensation from all those involved. In April last year, at least 188 homeowners of the Chintels Paradiso condominium moved the Supreme Court seeking compensation, rehabilitation, an independent structural audit and action against the developer, contractor and other stakeholders. The top court will next hear the case on February 27.

Experts from IIT Delhi were asked to conduct a structural audit of the condominium in September and submitted their report to the district administration in November. On November 9, the district administration recommended that Tower D was unsafe and needed to be demolished.

Later, the state government recommended a CBI probe in the matter, which took over the probe on January 17 this year, registered a case against the developer, and booked Ashok Solomon, managing director of the group, under Section 304A and sections pertaining to cheating, causing grievous hurt, dishonestly inducing delivery of property, criminal conspiracy and mischief of the Indian Penal Code.

A spokesperson for Chintels Developers, when contacted, said they “have full confidence in the investigation by CBI and are sure they will conduct a fair investigation”.

On January 25, CBI wrote to the district administration, asking them to hand over documents and information pertaining to the Chintels Paradiso incident, including details of complaints lodged by residents and structural audit reports submitted by IIT Delhi and other institutions.

A two-member team of CBI visited Chintels Paradiso on Thursday evening, and took statements from four or five residents, a flat owner said. “The CBI officials took statements of four or five flat owners, questioned the estate officials and sought documents pertaining to the condominium. They told us they will be coming to the complex again in the next four or five days,” he said, asking not to be named.

Residents and flat owners, however, are not enthused by the transfer of the case to CBI, and have called it a farce. They allege that all the delays and slowdown in the investigation and payment of compensation are “ploys to help the developer”. “Why has the government delayed the CBI probe? It is almost one year but there is status quo since day one. Most of us spent our life savings to buy these houses and now stand in the middle of nowhere,” said Hem Chander Mishra, a flat owner of Tower D, whose family is still traumatised by the collapse.

The residents and flat owners admit that the district administration engaged with them throughout the year to calculate the compensation of the flats, but said the process was too slow, and despite the final report of the fourth revaluation having been submitted on January 23, the final order of compensation has not been issued. “Where is the final order? Whom do we approach to get paid? What is the process? There is no clarity on this,” said Hooda.

The district administration, meanwhile, said on Thursday that they have not issued a general order as the price of each flat has been calculated individually. “The compensation has been finalised and we have added interest payment for 11 months as the incident happened last year. The evaluators have also enhanced the price of land and the compensation of flat owners. The final amount is estimated between 6,500 and 6,900 per square foot. Also we have told the owners that is not the final settlement and they can move court for enhancement if they want,” said Nishant Yadav, deputy commissioner, Gurugram.

Yadav said that “learnings from this incident have been incorporated into the policy governing the real estate sector across the state”. “A new structural safety policy has been drafted, which will be incorporated into the building code and housing policy to prevent such incidents. Going forward, all aspects of real estate development will be subjected to strict construction quality controls,” said Yadav.

Referring to the issues raised by the residents, Yadav said that this was a complex matter with several calculations and audits involved, and so it took time. “We have also told the developer that the compensation will have to be paid in time bound manner,” he said.

Yadav also said they will take a call on the demolition of Tower D later as their first priority is to rehabilitate the flat owners. “Right now there is no one living in that tower and it can be brought down later by the developer,” he said.

The developer of the project, meanwhile, said that they wrote to the authorities and informed them and the residents of Tower D that they are willing to compensate them by buying back their apartments at a flat rate of 5,500 per square foot. To be sure, most owners bought the properties at a rate of 5,500-5,600 per square foot.

A spokesperson of Chintels India Ltd said,”There have been several changes reportedly made to the valuation by a government-approved evaluator. The rates have reportedly been increased from 5,200 to 6,900 per sqft. This has been the stumbling block for reaching a fair rate of compensation. We have supplied actual certified sale deeds of nearby projects (from the year 2022) to the DC, which prove that our offer is completely fair and in line with nearby project rates, since all but one of the sale deeds are at a lower price than our offer.”

The Chintels spokesperson also said that after the incident, the company relocated affected families and paid them 20,000 on the day of the incident.

“Thereafter, we have been paying rent for approximately 50 families and continue to do so till this day. The average rent is around 40,000 per month per apartment, which we continue to pay even now,” he said.

He said that as they have not been provided with the actual report of the audit by IIT Delhi, they have decided to seek a second opinion by engaging CBRI (Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee) a government agency. “We have already signed the contract and deposited the fees for a structural audit,” the company said.

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