Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
A few days ago, while talking with a top functionary. I had mentioned of Prava Apartment situated in Unit IV, Bhubaneswar, where my Samudi Dr. Asoka Mishra resides. I am unable to go to his house since around three months as the ‘Lift’ is not working. Nobody knows whether it is really damaged or rendered defunct. But, according to the belief of my Samudi, it is damaged, because that is what he has been informed by the Association they have formed.
Non-functioning of the Lift for months together is drastically hampering human rights of the legitimate residents of Prava Apartment, as aging or senior residents of upper floors are unable to come out even for medical checkups. Their regular life is severely affected because of non-functioning of the lift.
“What do you mean by legitimate residents?” he had asked me. I had explained that apartment owners are giving outsiders, unknown to all owners, their houses on rent and these people having no concern for safety of the Apartment building, are misusing the lift that is precipitating its malfunctioning, pushing it often and finally to collapse, as has happened in the Prava Apartment.
“The owners must have formed a society to manage the common utilities and to maintain the structure. What that society is doing?” he had queried. I confessed that I had no knowledge, except knowing that my Samuduni is leading almost an incarcerated life in her own house, because only of the non-functioning of the Lift. She is unable to come out for daily walking, marketing or meeting the relations for months together, because the society has failed to repair the lift promptly, when the apartment is fitted with only one lift by the builder.
I am glad to note that, the executive government has formulated legal provisions to save such disadvantaged residents of multi-storied apartment houses. A new Bill, named and styled as ‘The Odisha Apartment Ownership (Amendment) Bill, 2015’ has been moved in the Orissa Legislative Assembly. It aims to amend the Act of 1982.
In proposing an amendment in section 14 (1) of the Act, it wants the Competent Authority to be empowered to “direct the Association of Apartment Owners to repair or replace damaged property within such period as may be specified in such direction failing which the Competent Authority may undertake the said work and expenses incurred for undertaking such work shall be recovered from the Association of Apartment Owners”.
If the Assembly adopts the Bill, a great relief to residents like that of Prava Apartment would surely come.
But I feel that the draft Bill has areas to be improved upon by the Assembly while adopting it. I suggest the following improvements:
1. there should be blatant ban on letting out of apartments by their respective owners to any outsider to eliminate misuse of utilities and threat to common safety. Suppose an unsocial element occupies an apartment on rent and indulges in secret making of bombs and during the manufacturing process, a bomb accidentally blasts and destroys the entire structure over and above damage to and loss of life. In the prevailing environment of criminality, such apprehension cannot be ruled out. The authorities know of the misuse of an apartment in Krishna Towers for women trafficking involving even IAS and IIS officers. Laxity of law in allowing renting out of apartments to outsiders is the cause of such illegalities. Therefore, the proposed amendment Bill should be improved upon by the Assembly to provide for a total ban on renting out of any apartment by any owner without express agreement of all the owners as all of them co-possess the entire building and surrounding free space within the compound, subject to police verification by the Competent Authority on the person or persons to be accommodated on rent;
2. the residents of upper floors of Prava Apartment are suffering, because the Lift, which is the single Lift, has become defunct. The law makers should get educated from this experience and proceed to provide that every apartment building must be equipped with at least two Lifts before the builder is allowed to sell any apartment. The proposed Bill should be improved upon in this respect before adoption.
3. A case study of Prava Apartment shows that there is a sort of mafia raj in action through the owners association. As for example, the association has rented out the roof of the building to a mobile phone company that has erected its heavyweight tower directly on the apartment of an owner who is a lone and senior lady. Under impact of the tower, her roof is cracking and leaking. She is feeling unsafe and her protests are not heeded to. It is suspected that, the association has deliberately kept the Lift defunct to teach her a lesson, as it is most unbearable for her to entirely depend daily on stairs of the five floors. Keeping this in view, the tabled Bill should be improved upon to the extent of banning any such construction on any roof top of any apartment building and demolition of any and all such constructions prior to enactment of the introduced Bill.
But this depends upon legislative environment of the house and individual and collective concern of our MLAs for the people.