New Delhi: An apartment complex of high profile former Indian Foreign Service officers in the national capital has courted controversy as some residents have accused its management of “harassing” them about keeping pets during the lockdown period, so much so that a few of them are moving out to be able to keep their pets.
The Managing Committee of IFS Apartments, in the prime East Delhi area of Mayur Vihar I, had in 2011 decided that all residents, including house owners, will not be permitted to bring in new pets. The housing society’s rules also said “renting of flats by tenants who insist on bringing in pets will not be approved”.
Additionally, prospective tenants have to sign a tripartite agreement with the landlord and the managing committee on renting the flat, in which they have to declare: “That I shall also abide by the decisions of the Managing Committee of the IFS CGHS LTD with regard to these rules and regulations. I am aware of the decision taken by the Society that a tenant is not permitted to bring in dogs or other pets.”
While the policy has been around for a decade, several residents have felt compelled to leave the complex over the last few months after the management committee allegedly “harassed” them about keeping pets during the lockdown period.
Among them was Ritika Jain, who had moved into the IFS Apartment three years back. It was during the lockdown that Jain decided to adopt a cat.
“They (the managing committee) started giving reminders to us about what we would do with the pet… Lately, they have started coming down and making it very rigid. Unlike a dog, one doesn’t even get to know if there’s a cat inside the house,” she said.
“This is the time when children aren’t going to school, and having a pet is very emotionally helpful…asking someone to give it up is insensitive,” she added.
Dilip Sinha, a former IFS officer and secretary of the management committee, told ThePrint, “Yes, this is a rule and has been the rule since 2011. That is all I can say.” He also said he was “unaware” of any rules by the Animal Welfare Board of India and high court rulings that prohibit resident associations from making anti-pet policies.
K.L. Agrawal, president of the management committee, did not respond to calls from ThePrint.
‘Harassment, felt suffocated’
IFS Apartments is a complex of 210 apartments built by a cooperative society formed by IFS officers. Its residents include retired IFS officers and also other professionals and it is considered a prime address in Mayur Vihar I.
Residents with pets cite an Animal Welfare Board of India circular of 2014 which said, “In trying to ‘ban’ pets or limit their number, residents’ welfare associations & apartment owners associations interfere with a fundamental freedom guaranteed to the citizens of India.”
But that doesn’t seem to have stopped the management committee of the complex from enforcing its own rule.
“I gave a representation with AWB (Animal Welfare Board) circular about how illegal the rules are, nothing came out of this. They said that there is no court direction,” said lawyer Azmat Amanullah, a former resident.
Vasudha Mehta, a lawyer with a husband and two children, who has lived in the apartment complex since 2014 is going to be moving out of the home her family bought in 2016. The anti-pet policy is “one of the main reasons,” for the move, she said.
“We first moved in as tenants in 2014 and later bought a flat. We signed the affidavit without thinking about it at the time as we didn’t have pets. But over the lockdown period and with children in the house, we decided to get a puppy to ease their mental strain,” she said. “The building’s management committee started harassing us and produced the affidavit we had signed, and kept sending us notices.”
A notice by the management committee dated 29 August 2020, in response to “dog poop” found in the complex reads, in all caps: “NO NEW DOGS MAY BE BROUGHT INTO THE COMPLEX BY RESIDENTS. DOG-OWNERS ARE REQUESTED TO SHOW CONSIDERATION FOR OTHER RESIDENTS AND RESPECT THE NEED FOR KEEPING THE COMPLEX CLEAN.”
Another resident of the building who did not wish to be named said a group of flat-owners wrote to former union minister and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi in August 2020. In response, Gandhi “spoke to the management committee” but in vain.
“In the past, there have been people with dogs and cats, and it wasn’t really an issue. The rule was made in 2011 and included in the affidavit in 2014, but it’s only in recent years, after a change in the management committee, that they’ve really started enforcing the rules,” the flat-owner said. “The committee was relentless even after we got in touch with Maneka Gandhi.”
“We own a flat so they can’t really do anything to us. But they would trouble our maid if she took the dog down for a walk and tell her to take him outside the complex, which is dangerous both for our dog and our maid. After a point in time, you feel suffocated, so we decided to leave,” said Mehta.