Nearly 23 years after he floated the scheme of river-facing Non-Agricultural (NA) plots in the picturesque Malavli in Maval tehsil close to Pune, a Borivali-based land developer has been booked on charges of cheating and criminal breach of trust by Pune rural police for allegedly defrauding second home buyers from Mumbai and Pune.
The FIR was filed against the developer, Mahesh Ramugade (pictured below), by Rajesh Bhujbal, Auditor, Co-operative Societies, after completing a reaudit ordered by the Deputy Registrar of Co-operative Societies, Pune Rural following multiple complaints from members of Ramugade Sahnivas No. 2 Sahakari Gruhrachna Sanstha Ltd (RSSGSL), a co-operative housing society formed by the plot owners.
Though the FIR mentions that Ramugade illegally sold plots of 10 members, and rented it to three members, the irregularities allegedly involve 42 acres of land and more than 313 plot owners.
“Considering that it affects so many plot owners, and the amount involved could more than Rs 2 crore, we have transferred the case to the Economic Offences Wing of Pune police,” Sandeep Patil, Superintendent of Police, Pune Rural, told Mumbai Mirror. According to the FIR lodged by Bhujbal, who carried out a re-audit of this cooperative society headed by Ramugade from April 1, 2010 till March 31, 2016, the RSSGSL was formed in violation of sections 4, 10 and 12 of the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act guidelines, endangering the ownership rights of the society members.
“According to these rules, all land should have been transferred in the name of the society, but the land is in the name of Mahesh Ramgude and his wife and hence there is evidence that he has cheated members,” Bhujbal says in the FIR.
The FIR said out of the 1.73 lakh sq metres of land in Malavli, 17,264.79 sq m is reserved for amenities, and out of this, Ramgude illegally sold 4,302.990 sq m of land to 10 members without the permissions of the Collector and Maval tehsildar. Out of the open space of 12,207.14 sq metres, 501.455 sq m was given illegally on rent to three members, the FIR says.
“It was necessary to divide 1.11 lakh sq m of land into 224 plots as per approved layout, but Mahesh Ramgude illegally divided residential area of 96,269.675 sq m into 309 plots and illegally sold them,” the FIR lodged on August 18 states.
Collector’s orders violated: Auditor
Speaking to Mumbai Mirror from Pune, Bhujbal said, “According to rules, Ramgude should have transferred the land to the society and then given it to members. But, all the land is in his name and that of his wife. Records show that he has sold roads, amenity spaces, and open spaces belonging to the society. The Collector had not given approval to the proposed layout and had directed him to make plots each measuring at least five gunthas, but he has sold plots less than five gunthas to maximise profits.”
According to 51-year-old Samir Sao, a Khar-based IT consultant, he and his mother Shubhada had purchased a 2,500- sq-ft piece of land in the scheme advertised as Vibha Darshan by Ramugade’s company Pranjal Park, and an agreement for sale was executed in April 1995 after they paid a sum of Rs 95,000.
“Two years later when I had moved to the US, my parents started receiving letters demanding maintenance and security deposit. So, we demanded that he first give us 7/12 extract, the ownership document. Even today, he has neither given us 7/12 nor possession of the plot,” says Sao, one of the victims of the alleged land scam who lodged a formal complaint in 2017.
Sao, Anand Alshi and 18 others then used the RTI provisions to gather information about project permissions, and stumbled upon various violations. In his complaint, Sao says that RTI information revealed that Ramugade did not fulfil the Collector’s terms and conditions to convert the agricultural land into non- agricultural land. The Taluka Inspector of Land Records had found a mismatch in the layout plans and had asked him to resubmit plans in November 1998, but Ramugade continued to sell plots to innocent buyers, the complaint said.
Sao said Ramugade was the landowner, the chairman of RSSGSL since inception, and head of Pranjal Park company, and he also gave contracts of Society works to his own company. Suresh Tikone, a printing press o w n e r f r o m Mumbai purchased a 2.32 acre plot nearby in 1987, but didn’t get the 7/12 extract made.
“Ramugade amalgamated my plot no. 309 and adjacent plot no. 306 and showed it as his land, made plots, obtained NA order, and sold it to 24 different people. It took me 19 years to win court cases and now my name appears on 7/12 as the plot owner. He has gone in appeal against the order in HC,” says Tikone.
Tikone’s plot was also sold to Arif and Fawzia Furniturewala, Mumbai-based buyers, in 2007. “We saw an ad in the papers about NA plots and purchased 2752 sq ft after paying Rs 9 lakh. Two days later, he gave us a notarized agreement.
In 2009, when I asked him for land documents, he was reluctant and started deferring it. Now I am told my plot is owned by Tikone brothers and we have been fighting to get justice,” says Furniturewala.
Re-audit a unilateral move, says developer When the violations were brought to its notice, the Pune M e t r o p o l i t a n R e g i o n a l Development Authority (PMRDA) in January 2018 wrote to Pune Collector stating that Ramugade had violated NA approval conditions by not developing drainage lines, storm water drains, water lines and recommended that the conditional NA permissions given in August 1996 and May 2007 should be cancelled.
When contacted Ramgude said the FIR against him was based on the re-audit ordered “unilaterally” by the Deputy Regist rar of Co-operat ive Societies, Pune Rural, and that his prosecution was “i l legally ordered”. “I have filed a revision petition with the Divisional Joint Regist rar of Co-operat ive Societies, Pune challenging the re-audit and prosecution, and the hear ing is scheduled for September 4,” he said.
He admitted that the land was in his and his wife’s names and was never transferred to the RSSGSL to give full FSI benefit of the plots to the owners. “The society was formed as tenant ownership society instead of maintenance society. The Registration Authority is now trying to correct this mistake. I am ready to do conveyance of open space and amenity space in the name of society provided I get right compensation towards it,” he said without responding to other allegations.