Rustumji Developments told to pay Rs. 15.44 crore in costs

The contested development of 81, Richmond Road, the sprawling property that belonged to the descendents of Sir Mirza Ismail, the charismatic dewan of the erstwhile princely state of Mysore, has been settled by a three-member Arbitral Tribunal.

The panel, constituted to hear a dispute over the joint development agreement (JDA) between the property owners — the brother and four daughters of the late Shakereh, granddaughter of Sir Mirza — and the builder, Rustumji Developments, has decided in favour of the owners.

While two of the tribunal members directed Rustumji Developments to pay a cost of Rs. 15.44 crore to the owners as damages, the third directed them to repay the Rs. 1 crore taken as advance from the developer, along with Rs. 50 lakh towards expenditure incurred by the latter.

'Return property'

An important part of the verdict is that all the three members concurred that the developer has to return the physical possession of this prime property, which is valued at over Rs. 150 crore in realty market today, to the owners.

While the market value for a square foot of land on Residency Road is around Rs. 20,000, the government's guidance value of properties on the road is between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 12,000.

Dispute

The dispute between the parties goes back to 2006 when the five who inherited the property cancelled the joint development agreement (JDA) which they entered into in 1994 to build a multi-storey commercial office space.

The owners argued before the Tribunal there had been inordinate delay in the project's execution, and plans had not been prepared even after 12 years of the JDA. Rustumji Developments, on the other hand, claimed there was no consensus among the inheritors as to the type of commercial space that needed to be built. Further, there was delay in retrieving the original title deeds.

The property development also faced impediments as income tax arrears had to be settled.

Also to be sorted out was the 21,000 sq ft fraudulently sold through 34 sale deeds by Shraddananda (whom Shakereh married in 1986) using a defunct general power of attorney. While the conciliation agreement with the buyers to cancel the 34 sale deeds was ratified by the High Court in 1997, the income tax case was resolved in 1999.

Encroachment attempts

Akbar Mirza Khaleeli, former diplomat and ex-husband of Shakereh, who represented the claimants in the case, told The Hindu that just around the time of verdict some trees on the property had been illegally cut and building materials, cement, girders and rods had been stored there.

Attempts have been made to put up advertisement hoardings too, he said, adding that he had brought these developments to the notice of the authorities concerned.

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