Law tribunal takes over rundown Bhandup mall
In a blow to prominent developer HDIL, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has appointed an Administrator to independently run Dreams Mall in Bhandup after a HDIL subsidiary failed to pay property taxes, water and electricity charges for a prolonged period.
Located close to Bhandup railway station, and at a prominent location on LBS Road, Dreams The Mall has been falling apart gradually over the last three years. The three-storey mall houses Carnival Cinemas multiplex, a super specialty hospital, over 1,000 retail shops, a banquet hall and a food court, but with no water in the toilets, no central air-conditioning, no housekeeping and security services, the place have become a repository of garbage, filth and anti-social elements. The multiplex has closed, so has the mall office and the Sunrise Hospital started by Nikita Trehan from the Wadhwan family.
Bottles of alcohol lie strewn across the mall in isolated stretches. A visitor must dodge paan-stains and dog poop while walking through the long corridors of the mall. The elevators and escalators don’t work. The toilets are dirty without water. Ventilation is a challenge as the central air conditioning is not functional. Some shop owners desperate to get some fresh air have smashed the glass façade of the mall at some places.
With no security guarding the property, the mall has become unsafe especially for women after dark. Shop owners who operate various businesses in the premises have been fighting since 2015 to restore these basic services. The HDIL had formed the Dream The Mall Company Ltd with Rakesh Wadhwan and Sarang Wadhwan as directors in the subsidiary to manage the mall. But, shop owners say the company collected the property tax, water and electricity charges from them but did not pay to the government, inviting action from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL).
In April this year, the NCLT bench first appointed advocate Ruturaj Bankar as Court Commissioner to personally inspect the mall and ascertain whether common area facilities were being provided, and whether the common area maintenance charges were paid.
In July 2018, Bankar submitted his report which showed that Dreams The Mall company did not pay property tax worth Rs 15.92 crore till March 2018. It also did not pay electricity charges for common areas amounting to Rs 1.65 crore as of February 2017, and Rs 79.76 lakh in unpaid water charges and hence water and electricity has been cut off by the state utilities.
“On looking at the report of the Commissioner, it appears that the condition prevailing in the Mall is not only creating problems to the petitioners and other shop owners in respect to their business, but it is life threatening not only to the petitioners but also to the public regularly visiting the mall,” observed the NLCT bench comprising Member (Judicial) BSV Prakash Kumar and Member (Technical) Ravikumar Duraiswamy in their order dated August 31.
The bench then appointed company secretary Rahul Sahasrabuddhe as an Administrator as an interim arrangement to find solutions for restoring the facilities required in the huge mall. “My brief is to manage the mall with the help of shop owners, try and restore these basic services.
I will be calling all 1,053 shop owners for a meeting on September 8 to discuss and find out how much money can be pooled together. Restoring water, housekeeping, security services is our priority, and we will issue tenders to restart these. I have to report to NCLT every 15 days o n t h e p r o g r e s s , ” s a i d Sahasrabuddhe. The NCLT has given three weeks’ time to Dream The Mall Company to file their reply.
“In 2015, we started getting individual notices for unpaid property tax and that’s when we realised what’s happening. We were paying Common Area Maintenance to the company, but it wasn’t paying it to the BMC. Fearing that our premises might be sealed if we don’t pay, some of us paid property tax dues again to the BMC,” said Dilip Sawant, who runs an import-export business of printing machinery. Sangita Sawant, who runs a software production company, told Mumbai Mirror, “The toilets do not have any water and as you can see the mall is so dirty. You imagine how difficult it is especially for women working here.”
Nithin Bangera, who runs a logistics company from the mall since 2009, “During the day, when the mall is full of people, the place feels like a furnace due to lack of AC.” Sarang Wadhwan, vice chairman, HDIL, said “We welcome the decision of the honourable tribunal to appoint an administrator for Dreams Mall to resolve long standing issues of common area maintenance and illegal alterations by some shop owners. We shall endeavour to provide all support to resolve these issues.”