The reversal of land acquisition on Noida’s outskirts is only the latest in the various land-related issues around the country. However, it’s the first one which directly affects the ordinary person who is trying to buy a house or invest in some property. Despite all the talking about financial investments that we do, real estate is effectively the most widespread investment vehicle that people use to preserve and grow their wealth. But as the events in Noida show, there are severe legal problems that can arise around the simple act of buying an apartment.
Unfortunately, even though having the Supreme Court dispossess you from your apartment might be a new phenomenon, problems while investing in an apartment by buying it from builder are nothing new. For years, builders and developers have been short-changing buyers on the size, and quality of apartments. And yet, there is no effective regulatory structure in place.
This is the one investment vehicle that everyone uses or aspires to use and yet it’s the one which is, for all practical purposes, operates under the law of the jungle in comparison to other types of investments. Even the very basic of any transaction—what is being sold and how much of it is being sold—is freely redefinable by the seller. Builders and developers around the country change the meaning of terms like area and carpet area and super area at will. There’s no independent measure of delays, escalation and cost. And now there’s the added threat of the original landowners being handed back the land by courts.
It’s now at least a decade since there’s been talk of a real estate regulation law. Around five years ago, such a bill was supposedly on the verge of being passed but then at some point it silently vanished from the legislative agenda. Between the builders, the politicians, the farmers and the courts, we have a situation which is uniquely hostile to those trying to put their hard-earned money into an apartment.
This hostility is borne out by the Supreme Court’s decision. While there’s no doubt that the highest court should have returned the farmer’s land, perhaps it could have also issued some guidance to how the flat buyers should be treated. They are no less victims here than the farmers.