It is Corruption that makes land grabbing possible Everywhere: Everyone has a Share
I am sitting here in Hyderabad for the last seven weeks to sort out the illegal sale of my house property by some group of goons. It was sold twice within a week without my knowledge. My routine for the last few weeks almost has become - every day meeting the police in the morning and Advocates in the evening and collecting necessary documents and taking precautions that those who sold my house by way of impersonation and forgery don’t forcibly occupy my house.
As I started sharing my experiences of how my property was sold without my knowledge, many people shared their own experience and sympathised with me. The only thing they say is that “Truth will win and you will win and it is only going to take a lot of time!
How much time, no one knows! The estimates given by various people vary from one year to 20 years. The most optimistic estimate I got from one of the Advocates is about a year and half. That too in spite of a clear evidence that I have been impersonated and a Special Power of Attorney (SPA) was created, on the basis of which a General Power of Attorney (GPA) - cum- sale deed was also created on the same day and the property was sold and registered a month latter and even before it was registered it was sold to another person to complicate the issues.
In all seven people were involved and with probable support from unknown elements across two Registration offices to facilitate registration of the property without complete verification. The office in fact even missed to verify whether the seller (who was impersonated) had provided the same address across all the documentation submitted.
While the police have been very cooperative in registering this criminal case promptly, they have yet been unable to trace the accused and make any arrests, as the accused are absconding! All addresses indicated on the documents are false . Despite these false addresses I was surprised to learn that the impersonators and associated parties had filed suits and petitions without appearing in the court and engaging their advocates in an attempt to trouble and pressurize me .
The various agencies in the Government can’t do much other than sympathise. Some people look for opportunity to make money out of this and a few others say that they can’t do much either because the law does not permit them or they don’t have resources to nab the culprits or get the fake sale deed cancelled. How so ever genuine your case may be it has to be fought in the court of law for no fault of yours. If you have not seen a court in your life, here’s a chance to experience one now! Not in one court but two: one civil and the other criminal. Winning one will facilitate the other but you never know when you can win either of them. Even if you do, they can keep on appealing to higher courts!
I am giving below the lessons I have learnt from this episode and I like to share my experience with all professionals and others who own a property or a house and may not be staying there all the time.
My Story: 653 Jubilee Hills: This House Belongs to Prof. T. V. Rao and This is Not for Sale:
Fortunately as I was alerted by a builder (perhaps a little late) but early enough so that I could get back to Hyderabad and save the property from illegal occupation .
July 2nd: I reached Hyderabad on 2nd July morning directly from Malaysia and took charge of my house. Fortunately it was not occupied by anyone else and our watch man was there. I brought it to the notice of Additional DG, CID (who recently got a President’s Gold Medal for his work) and as per his advice lodged a complaint at his office on 4th July. They started the investigation immediately.
It was suggested that I go to the highest authority since local police don’t entertain such complaints on land grabbing as they are civil matters. They don’t lodge an FIR merely on the basis of your complaint. They need to investigate and prima facie find out the genuineness of your complaint.
At the time of lodging the complaint, I was not even aware that my house had already been sold. All that I had was information that someone was impersonating me and trying to sell my house. The police advised me to get the encumbrance certificate to ascertain that the house was in my name. Everyone was assuring that a sale may not have happened as I had detected well in advance and had possession of the house. They also advised me to give a news paper advertisement indicating that the property was not for sale. I advertised in two of the local newspapers.
I was advised that this is a civil case and the police station at Jubilee Hills would not entertain such civil cases. I confirmed this by contacting the police and was told that they would be unable to entertain such cases as property matters are civil matters and they had to focus their attention on more serious law and order matters. By that time we did not know that this was turning out to be a criminal case of impersonation and forgery.
July 4th: I visited an Advocate and filed a caveat in three courts (lower, Upper and High). I did not know until I met the lawyer that the people who sold my house illegally may claim the property through any of the three courts until the advocate told me. I tried to apply for the encumbrance certificate. (I latter came to know that you need not apply for encumbrance certificate to know the status of the property and it is available on the net.).
There was a delay in obtaining the encumbrance certificate due to the Telengana agitation and delays at the Registrar’s office on account of an officer retiring.. Finally I got to know only on Thursday (7th July) that the property was not on my name and had been sold twice to two different people. I had shock of my life.
July 8: I informed this to the police and they acted fast and investigated and procured some of the documents. They were sure by 11th that this was a case for an FIR.
July 11th: The whole day went to file an FIR. Many technicalities had to be ascertained. It took almost a day to complete the formalities in filing the FIR.
July 16: I received a court notice on this day from the persons who illegally created documents and sold my property alleging that they were in possession of my house and I was troubling them and not handing over the original papers. They seemed to know the places where I had filed a caveat and they filed the suit in another court where my advocate had not filed caveat. They had requested the court to give an injunction preventing me from any further action and to hand over the documents. I was extremely lucky to have detected this in time (despite the other party’s attempt to file this in another court) and could demonstrate possession to the court. If I would not have known this in time, I might not have been able to attend the court with a possibility that I could have been ordered by the court to vacate my own property!
This was the next shock of my life. Not only your property has been sold by impersonation and forgery but you are served a notice as though they are in possession of the property. Strangely the court notice gets delivered to me at the address of my own property and the petitioners give another address from where they filed the suit.
I had to search and get one of the best Advocates in the city to represent me. Every one advised me that I must go to the best since there could be a possibility of the miscreants attempting to ‘buy off’ advocates representing my case.. I had heard many stories about money used to accomplish anything!. So I had to find an advocate who was reliable and loyal. One has to use one’s contacts. We did that and got one of the good teams to work with us.
The case came for hearing a fortnight latter and the fortnight went with high anxiety and preparation of counter for the suit. This required generating proof that I was in possession of the house and also that the people involved were doing things with criminal intentions. The CID was very helpful. They conducted a “panchnama” and gave me certificates of my possession of the house. The witnesses included revenue Mandal officials who served notice for payment of dues just a few days before. They had no doubt about my stay. Photographs were taken, videos were taken, neighbours were called and their evidence was taken and it took almost a full day for Panchnama.
In the mean time I was advised to write to water, electricity, registration departments, Jubilee ills society, Municipal Corporation etc. requesting them not to entertain any changes in the ownership of the property as it had been illegally sold to some parties using impersonation and forgery. Some of the department officials refused to take my letter when I went personally to serve the letter while some others were very helpful and sympathetic. The water supply manager in charge in fact gave me a print out of all the payments I made in the last three years saying that “Professor, this will be helpful for you”
The Registrar’s office refused to take the letter as it put the office name as Erragadda and not “Jubilee Hills”. It was strange that the registrar’s office could register crores worth property without even checking the authenticity of the addresses and inconsistencies in the documents but refused to take a letter that did not type the correct office name! They wanted a separately typed letter and corrections were not acceptable! They also mentioned that they didn’t entertain any such requests to stop registration unless they get an order form the court. The number of trips I had to make to each of them and the nature of responses I got was varied and interesting.
July 16: My well wishers one day organised a press conference and all the local TVs and Newspapers were at my house. It was telecast spontaneously stating that IIM Professor’s house was sold without his knowledge. One of them was wrongly told that I was on the PM’s Advisory Council perhaps to attract the attention of the media. I had to tell them that I was not a member of such council though two of my former colleagues from IIMA are and tell them my other involvement in Administrative Reforms, Finance Ministry’s HR committee for PSBs etc. The news and TV coverage seemed to have done some good as the next few days in most offices I visited, the officials immediately recognised my case and were very helpful. I was even told by the Jubilee Hills Society that some buyers had come to verify if they had got cheated with their purchases!.
August 1: The case came for hearing and we produced all evidence stating that the miscreants had mislead the court and we were in possession of the house and that they sold the house by impersonation etc. The honourable Judge apparently was very unhappy with their advocate who had not ascertained the facts before filing the suit. He dismissed the case as withdrawn as their advocate did not press for it. The court advanced the hearing meant to take place on 1-11-2011 to 1-8-2011 and dismissed the case. This was the first victory against the goons.
Since then the police have investigated and uncovered the following story:
1. The search for illegally taking away this property where I have a house and am only an infrequent visitor had begun almost a year ago. The land grabbers had perhaps observed that this was one of the houses where the owner did not always stay and the house was looked after by a watchman. (I have been visiting and staying in the house frequently. They procured some receipts like property tax receipts, electricity bills etc. with the help of some one (just about three of them)). They procured the sale deed duplicate copy either from the registrar office or the Society. The Registrars give duplicate copy to anyone who pays a small fee of around Rs. 100. They put the sale deed in the market stating that the Professor is old, unwell, no one is looking after, he needs money etc. I don’t know what other stories they circulated.
2. On one of the days when I was in my house in May 2011, they arranged some person to meet me pretending to be from the municipal corporation and verifying the authenticity of electoral rolls. They had wrong names listed in my property and naturally I asked them to correct the same. They asked for my photograph and a form to be filled and an electricity bill to be given as proof of residence. I had given all of them. They used the photograph and the electoral rolls thus collected from me and forged my signature.
3. Election Card: With the help of the photographs and signature they created an election card. They may be in the business of creating such cards and they may have several such cards. Rather they created two election cards one with my photograph and the other with the imposter’s photograph. The imposter appeared to be a bald old man.
4. SPA: They registered the Special Power of Attorney in the name of one TN as though I have authorised him to sell my property to any one for around Rs 5.5 crores. The SPA was signed as T V Rao by the imposter and fake election card of fake T V Rao was used for the same. The SPA was registered on 19th May - the same day when they collected my photograph from my house (enough proof that I was in Hyderabad on the day the SPA was registered). It was registered in Kukatpally registrar’s office. I understand that after the SPA gets registered the original is given to the SPA holder to do the sale deed and only a copy is kept in the registrar’s office. This duplicate is not given to anyone but the police were able to get a copy.
5. GPA cum sale Deed: Using the same SPA they created a new General Power of Attorney cum sale deed indicating that T V Rao had sold the property to another person by name MNR and also authorised him to make further sales of the property. This was created on 19th May and submitted for registration on 25th May along with the SPA. However while submitting the SPA at Erragadda office (a different registration office) the old man‘s (imposter’s) photographs were substituted in the election card and the SPA, with my Photographs. This was easy as the Registrar does not sign on the photo or stamp on the photo. Anyone can change the photographs on SPAs and create false SPAs. You just have o remove one photograph and substitute with another.
6. The document of GPA cum sale deed was registered on 27th and the same day another sale deed was created and a part of the property (500 Square yards of the 1442 Sq yards with the house on it) was sold to the third party called JB for Rs 2 crores.
7. The required stamp duty was paid to the registrar - which amounted to a total of Rs 40 lakhs. When such a big amount was being paid ,the Registrar’s office apparently did not bother to check on who was selling to whom and check the authenticity of parties involved. I have been told that sometimes laws are flouted with computers switched off and no visits to the sites. (Someone mentioned to me that there is a rule that the registrar should visit all properties worth over a crore of rupees to ascertain authentic of the sale. I have not come across anyone doing it.) My experience with properties in Gujarat and Bangalore indicated that any buyer of a property of even as small as Rs 20 lakhs should put an advertisement in papers, should use and an advocate for transfer and drafting sale deeds and assisting in registration and should be present at the time of registration and subject himself to be photographed via the computer. I was told that while the same requirement is there in some of the offices in Hyderabad, the cameras sometimes do not work (apparently to suit the convenience of the buyers or sellers so that fraudulent transactions can be passed smoothly).
8. In none of the documents the addresses given of anyone except mine is correct. The identity cards issued are election card, ESI card, Office ID card, Driving licence etc. No one has given the PAN number of anyone. No details are mentioned about the manner of payment of Rs 5.5 crore in one transaction, 5.9 crore in another and Rs 2 crore in the third. No copy of the draft paid etc. are attached. Yet the Registrar’s office had liberally registered two transactions indicating that probably all rules were not followed. The police has made the Registrar also as one of the parties in the FIR. If that the registrar’s office of Kukkatpally is also involved, appropriate officers from that office were also probably a party to this illegal transaction.
While an FIR has been filed and the police are investigating the matter I am living with my family in Hyderabad with good wishes of well wishers and assurance that the registration will be cancelled and I will get back the title of property. There is constant advice from well wishers that there could be a threat to our life we should arrange our own security. Police cannot provide any security but will be there to help if any one tries to disturb us while staying in our own house.
I bought the property by becoming a member of the Jubilee Hills cooperative House Building Society in 1974 a few months after I joined in IIMA. The membership was only Rs. 100 and the development charges amounted to less than Rs. 20,000 by the time it was registered. When I bought it the place was a jungle and in the midst of stones. When we completed construction of the house in 1988 it was the only house around that area and could easily be spotted even from the aeroplane. Now it has become a posh area and I have been living here whenever I came to Hyderabad. The house has hosted many HRD Professionals and Dignitaries including Udai Pareek, Fr. Abraham, PVR Murthy, etc. for three of the National HRD Network conventions between 1990 and 2000 and later saw the birth of TVRLS.
Now the property is expensive. I am told that it is valued at around Rs seven crores. At one time it had even gone up to double that amount before Telengana agitation.
Judicial system seems to work well: Fortunately the judicial system seems to work. When the suit came up for hearing by the City Civil court Senior Judge, he understood the fraudulent transaction and even warned the advocate representing the fraudsters not to defraud the court. He did not allow their suit and their advocate had to withdraw and the suit dismissed. This gave us the first relief. Within a few days of getting this relief we heard that the group of seven who have created the documents and sold the property had appealed to the high court to squash the FIR. We had a nightmarish experience once we heard this. By this time the Investigating officer of the CID had got a lot of evidence about the fraudulent transactions. The judge who was sharp did not need much of an argument. He simply asked for the date of SPA and the date of sale deed. Since both dates are same why was there a need for SPA? He also noted that the first sale took place on 25th June and the second on 27th and both registered on the same day. He indicated that this was something fishy and the police should be allowed to investigate. It is such judgements that help people like me to have faith that justice will be done.
There are a number of honest officers in the government. However there are also a number of corrupt people and perhaps the number is proportionate to the number of corrupt people among all of us citizens. If government officers like the police, registrar’s office, public prosecutors, municipal corporation officials etc. are not corrupt it is difficult for citizens to carry out their corrupt designs. We can’t change the society overnight but we must at least wipe out corruption in the government officials so that goons don’t have their way.
If the Government officials had done their job well I would not have had to spend seven weeks and waste so many other people’s time. For example the imposter who acted as Prof. T. V. Rao had given his address while signing the SPA as that of a colony meant for economically backward communities. This address and the Election ID address of 653 Jubilee Hills was quite a contradiction. If the Government officer had just observed this fact, that the entire impersonation could have been prevented.
I must acknowledge that our country is still what it is because of several honest officers in the government. I found the police officers in CID do their best. The DIG in Stamps & Registration office went out of way to find the truth and file his version to the IG Stamps. The Manager in Metro water works was very helpful.
The real culprits are yet to be caught. All the seven who masterminded the property grab seem to be from middle or lower economic strata. They are aged between 25 and 35 years. They would not have earned so much to buy a property in Jubilee Hills. Their intention was to make a few quick multiple sales of the same property and disappear. Apparently this happens frequently. Also there are indications that some influential politicians may be involved in encouraging such land grabs. If Influential Politicians and Ministers are involved it may become extremely difficult for the police to nab the culprits as the politicians may go to any length to protect their name from coming out.
Prof. T. V. Rao