Bombay High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Observing that, a developer who has been appointed by the Society and who is eager to proceed with the redevelopment, was in some manner left baffled and dragged into litigation, G.S. Kulkarni, J., held that, non-cooperating members cannot foist a delay on the builder and the society in the commencement of the redevelopment work resulting in the project costs being increased every passing day.

A redevelopment of a 50-year-old dilapidated building of respondent 1 Co-operative Housing Society and the obstruction for such redevelopment by respondents 2 to 4 concerning their four units was the subject matter of the present proceedings filed under Section 9 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996.

Out of 30 members, 26 members have already vacated the society.

Society considering the dangerous condition of the building had taken up the issue of the urgent need for the redevelopment of the building. Further, the Society took steps to find out a suitable developer. An ‘Annual General Meeting’ was convened wherein by majority of the members it was resolved to appoint the petitioner as the developer.

Thereafter, a further Annual General Meeting of the Society was held in the presence of the officers of Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA). In such meeting, a decision was taken to appoint the petitioner as a developer to undertake the redevelopment of the Society’s premises, was confirmed.

Later, a Development Agreement was executed between the petitioner and the Society. Being appointed as a developer the petitioner, took steps so that the redevelopment work could commence.

Respondents 2,3 and 4 vacated and /or obstructed the redevelopment. They caused hurdles and impediments to the redevelopment work which according to the petitioner and the society caused serious prejudice to the members who had already vacated and who were eagerly awaiting the redevelopment work.

City Civil Court granted a temporary injunction restraining the society and the petitioner in taking any further steps qua the redevelopment of the Society’s building and from disturbing respondent 2’s possession.

Analysis, Law and Decision


Settled Position of Law

The minority members cannot act against the will of the of the majority members of the society and obstruct the redevelopment.

High Court observed that respondents 2 to 4 cannot take a position opposing the redevelopment, which was for the beneficial interest of all the members of the society. They cannot cause suffering to the other members who have already vacated.

“…cannot foist a delay on the petitioner and the Society in commencement of the redevelopment work resulting in the project costs being increased every passing day which would be immensely prejudicial to the petitioner as also the society.”

Further, the Bench added that,

“Respondents no 2 to 4 appear to be carrying an approach that as their residential units in the redevelopment are certainly secured, however the situation of the building going for redevelopment can be exploited to coerce the society and the petitioner for something, which prima facie appears to be, is beyond their normal entitlement. Such an approach is deleterious and detrimental to the majority members of the Society.”

Elaborating further, the High Court noted that, the redevelopment needs to proceed in a manner as agreed between the Society and the Developer and as per the sanction/ approval of the majority members.

In Court’s opinion, it is high time that the members realise that while they raise their grievances, such grievances are really genuine and not of a nature which would unwarrantedly obstruct and delay the proposed redevelopment.

“There needs to be a safeguard against unscrupulous persons who raised frivolous grievances. If such obstructing persons/members fail in proceedings, they would be accountable to the Society for the delay they are causing by such obstructive approach, based on the principle that once a person becomes a member he loses his individuality and has no independent rights except those given to him by the statute and the bye-laws.”

Respondents 2,3 and 4 had already adopted legal proceedings against the Society and the petitioner/developer.

In view of the above discussion, respondents 2,3 and 4 had no right to delay, defeat and prejudice the redevelopment by not vacating their respective units. The petitioner made out a strong prima facie case. [Choice Developers v. Pantnagar Pearl CHS Ltd., 2022 SCC OnLine Bom 786, decided on 13-4-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr. Rajiv Singh a/w. Omprakash Jha, Basu, Gaurav i/b. The Law Point for the petitioner.

Mr. Siddharth a/w. Garima Mehrotra for respondent no. 1-Society.

Mr. A.M. Saraogi for respondent nos. 2 and 4.

Mr. S.L. Mhatre for respondent no. 3. 

High Court Round UpLegal RoundUpTribunals/Regulatory Bodies/Commissions Monthly Roundup

Here’s our interesting picks of the week from the stories reported


“Notaries operating from public taxis around vicinity of Court”: Dignity of the profession needs to be maintained and the legal profession cannot be allowed to function from the streets | Bom HC   

“…though we have full sympathy for the Advocates who do not have their offices of their own to function from, we do not believe that the dignity of the profession needs to be maintained and the legal profession cannot be allowed to function from the streets.” 

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Gangubai Kathiawadi | Can after certification granted by Board, public exhibition of a film be prohibited? Bom HC answers

In respect to petitions with regard to the release of movie Gangubai Kathiawadi, Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ and M.S Karnik, J., while expressing that “Once the film is granted a certificate by the competent statutory authority, i.e. the Board, the producer or distributor of the film has every right to exhibit the film in a hall unless, of course, the said certificate is modified/nullified by a superior authority/Court”, held that, there cannot be any kind of obstruction for the exhibition of a film, which is certified, unless the said certificate is challenged and Court stays its operation,

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If husband and wife get their marriage registered under Special Marriage Act & under Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 as well, would this require them to get nullity of marriage under both Acts or one? Court decides

G.S. Kulkarni, J., expressed that, there is no provision under legislations, that if a marriage between the same couple is annulled under a competent law as enacted by the Parliament, it can as well be of a legal effect in the corresponding enactment.

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If husband brings home concubine due to which wife leaves house, would that lead to desertion by wife? Chh HC explains

The Division Bench of Goutam Bhaduri and Rajani Dubey, JJ., expressed that,

“If the husband keeps another lady; gives shelter to her; and proceeds to have child with the said lady and for that reason if the first wife has to leave the matrimonial home because of physical and mental torture meted out to her it cannot be presumed as a desertion on the part of wife.”

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Can an Admin of a messaging service group be held criminally liable for the offensive content posted by member of a group? Kerala HC addresses

While addressing the question of whether the creator or administrator of a WhatsApp group is criminally liable for offensive content posted by a group member, Dr Kauser Edappagath, J., held that a person can be criminally liable for the acts of another if they are party to the offence.

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Can flat owners be prevented from use of certain open spaces and facilities by builders? NCDRC answers

“The Common Area and Facilities remain undivided and no Apartment Owner or any other person shall bring any action for partition or division of any part thereof.”

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If granting exclusion of time would help Corporate Debtor from liquidation, should NCLAT allow such exclusion? Here’s what NCLAT says

“If granting of 90 days helps the Corporate Debtor to revive, then the basic objective of the I&B Code, 2016 will be met. Liquidation is the last resort.”

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Zee Insider Trading Case | In absence of direct evidence, matters of insider trading are to be tested on what grounds? SEBI lifts restrictions on 10 entities

“…considering the fact that in today’s age of technology with mushrooming applications that enable seamless calls and messages which provide service of end- to-end encryption assuring complete anonymity, it will be a simplistic assumption to state that the Entities would have communicated the UPSI with each other through the regular telephone calls only.”

Read full report, here.

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi (NCDRC): The Coram of R.K. Agrawal (President) and Dr S.M. Kantikar (Member) addressed a matter wherein the builder took money from the purchaser for the formation of a co-operative housing society but failed to do so and when asked for the refund, he did not return the money as well.

An agreement was entered between the complainant and the OP to construct Bungalow and as per that, the complainant had paid Rs 10,00,000 as consideration. The said agreement was not notarized, after handing over the possession and Occupancy Certificate, OP had to form a Co-operative Society, for which an amount was collected from the complainant, which was Rs 75,000, but OP failed to do so and also did not enroll the complainant as a member or executed independent Deed of Sale.

Later it came to the complainant’s knowledge that the OP had executed a few individual sale deeds in respect of some purchasers but not for the complainant. The complainant got drafted a sale deed, but the OP demanded a further amount even after agreeing initially that he would execute the same.

The complainant even obtained a NOC under FEMA. Yet the sale deed was not executed by the builder.

Hence, on being aggrieved with the above circumstances, the party reached the consumer forum for a refund of Rs 10,00,000 along with interest @18% p.a.; compensation of Rs 5,00,000 and Rs 50,580 towards travel expenses due to postponement of Air Ticket to USA.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Coram noted that the appellant builder executed individual Sale Deeds in respect of some purchasers.

Commission found that the Complainant had agreed to join Co-operative Housing Society, but the appellant did not form any and also did not refund the money paid by the complainant as ‘advance towards the maintenance and formation of the Co-operative Housing Society”.

Based on the above discussion, the OP was liable for deficiency in service. [Dilip Sagun Naik v. Dr Maliyil Cheriyan Mathai, 2022 SCC OnLine NCDRC 30, decided on 17-2-2022]


Advocates before the Commission:

For the Appellant: Mr. Dileep Poolakkot, Advocate

For the Respondent: Mr. S.N. Joshi, Advocate

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud* and AS Bopanna, JJ has held that failure on the part of the builder to provide occupancy certificate is a continuing breach under the Maharashtra Ownership Flats (Regulation of the Promotion of Construction, Sale, Management and Transfer) Act 1963 and amounts to a continuing wrong.

Factual Background

The appellant is a co-operative housing society. The respondent constructed Wings ‘A’ and ‘B’ and entered into agreements to sell flats with individual purchasers in accordance with the Maharashtra Ownership Flats (Regulation of the Promotion of Construction, Sale, Management and Transfer) Act 1963 (MOFA). The members of the appellant booked the flats in 1993 and were granted possession in 1997. According to the appellant, the respondent failed to take steps to obtain the occupation certificate from the municipal authorities.

There was an obligation on the respondent to provide the occupancy certificate and pay for the relevant charges till the certificate has been provided, however, the respondent time and again failed to provide the occupancy certificate to the appellant society. For this reason, a complaint was instituted in 1998 by the appellant against the respondent. The NCDRC on 20 August 2014 directed the respondent to obtain the certificate within a period of four months. Further, the NCDRC also imposed a penalty for any the delay in obtaining the occupancy certificate beyond these 4 months. Since 2014 till date, the respondent failed to provide the occupancy certificate.

In the absence of the occupation certificate, individual flat owners were not eligible for electricity and water connections. Due to the efforts of the appellant, temporary water and electricity connections were granted by the authorities. However, the members of the appellant had to pay property tax at a rate 25% higher than the normal rate and water charges at a rate which was 50% higher than the normal charge.

Analysis

Obligations of Promoter under MOFA

Section 3 of the MOFA imposes certain general obligations on a promoter. These obligations inter alia include making disclosures on the nature of title to the land, encumbrances on the land, fixtures, fittings and amenities to be provided, and to not grant possession of a flat until a completion certificate is given by the local authority. The responsibility to obtain the occupancy certificate from the local authority has also been imposed under the agreement to sell between the members of the appellant and the respondent on the latter.

Sections 3 and 6 of the MOFA indicate that the promoter has an obligation to provide the occupancy certificate to the flat owners. Apart from this, the promoter must make payments of outgoings such as ground rent, municipal taxes, water charges and electricity charges till the time the property is transferred to the flat-owners. Where the promoter fails to pay such charges, the promoter is liable even after the transfer of property.

Limitation

In the instant case, the appellant submitted that since the cause of action is founded on a continuing wrong, the complaint is within limitation.

Section 24A of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 provides for the period of limitation period for lodging a complaint. A complaint to a consumer forum has to be filed within two years of the date on which the cause of action has arisen.

Section 22 of the Limitation Act 1963 provides for the computation of limitation in the case of a continuing breach of contract or tort. It provides that in case of a continuing breach of contract, a fresh period of limitation begins to run at every moment of time during which the breach continues

A continuing wrong occurs when a party continuously breaches an obligation imposed by law or agreement. The continuous failure to obtain an occupancy certificate is a breach of the obligations imposed on the respondent under the MOFA and amounts to a continuing wrong.

The appellants, therefore, were entitled to damages arising out of this continuing wrong and their complaint is not barred by limitation.

“Rejecting the complaint as being barred by limitation, when the demand for higher taxes is made repeatedly due to the lack of an occupancy certificate, is a narrow view which is not consonance with the welfare objective of the Consumer Protection Act 1986.”

Consumer

Section 2(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act defines a ‘consumer’ as a person that avails of any service for a consideration. A ‘deficiency’ is defined under Section 2(1)(g) as the shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality of service that is required to be maintained by law.

In the present case, the NCDRC had held that the appellant is not a ‘consumer’ under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act as they have claimed the recovery of higher charges paid to the municipal authorities from the respondent. Extending this further, the NCDRC observed that the respondent is not the service provider for water or electricity and thus, the complaint is not maintainable.

The respondent was responsible for transferring the title to the flats to the society along with the occupancy certificate. The failure of the respondent to obtain the occupation certificate is a deficiency in service for which the respondent is liable. Thus, the members of the appellant society are well within their rights as ‘consumers’ to pray for compensation as a recompense for the consequent liability (such as payment of higher taxes and water charges by the owners) arising from the lack of an occupancy certificate.

[Samruddhi Co-operative Housing Society Ltd v. Mumbai Mahalaxmi Construction Pvt. Ltd, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 35, decided on 11.01.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Odisha Real Estate Regulatory Authority, Bhubaneswar: Siddhanta Das, Chairperson, Pradeep Kumar Biswal, Member – I and Ramanath Panda, Member – II held that the present matter was not maintainable as the project which was the subject matter of the present case was completed before the commencement of The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016.

Respondent was developing a project and the complainant and her son applied for allotment of a flat in their favour in the project. Respondent was allotted a flat, and later an agreement was executed between both the parties for the sale of flat. Total consideration amount of the house was Rs 58,26,500 which included parking charges.

As per the above-mentioned agreement, the house in completed form should have been delivered within 40 months, i.e., by end of February 2016. Complainant continued to pay the amount as per the payment schedule of the agreement. Later in the year, 2015 the complainant requested another flat instead of the one which was already allotted. The said request was accepted. But the respondent could not complete the project before February 2016 as agreed upon by him in the agreement.

Complainant requested time and to hand over possession and to execute a sale deed.

Respondent in March 2016 requested the complainant to pay the final payment and to take possession of the unit. In September 2016, the complainant paid the rest of the amount towards full and final payment. Inspite of this, the respondent could not complete the flat.

In the year 2017, the flat was handed over to the complainant but the respondent before execution of the sale deed did not obtain an occupancy certificate from the local authority which was in violation of the provisions of the Act.

It was stated that the parking charges were covered under common area, hence the amount for the same should have been refunded. Respondent also took an extra amount towards VAT charges. Further, the complainant also sent a notice to the respondent for payment of Rs 4,59, 360 for delay in delivery of possession.

But the respondent did not make any payment.

In view of the above-stated reasons, the complainant approached the Authority.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Authority opined that delay in getting approval and non-availability of the building material required for construction are no ground to avoid the responsibility of payment of interest for the delay in delivery of possession.

Coram stated that it could not understand as to why the respondent started the project and collected money from buyers before getting sanctioned plan. Therefore, the respondent was held liable to pay interest on the whole amount for a period of 10 months provided the Act has application to the present project.

Further, from the recitals of the sale deed, it could not be established that the complainant paid separately for the parking cost. Hence, the complainant was not entitled to claim a refund of the parking cost.

VAT is collected as per the statutory provisions and paid t the Government. Hence it is only recoverable from Authority if sufficient reason is provided regarding payment made wrongly. Therefore, the complainant was not entitled to recover the VAT charges collected.

The Act of 2016 has application only to the project which are ongoing and the projects which are to be developed after commencement of the Act.

In the present matter, a completion certificate had been issued to the promoter by the empanelled architect of the BDA (local authority) in February 2016. The promoter presented the completion certificate before the local authority on the same day for the purpose of obtaining occupancy certificate. Therefore, for this project completion certificate was already issue prior to commencement of the Act.

It was observed that, The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 got Presidential assent on 25-3-2016 and published in the Gazette of India on 26-3-2016. Therefore, the project was complete in all respect before the Act came into operation.

Hence, it was held that the Act had no application to the present project and that in view of the matter the case of complainant was not maintainable and complainant had no cause of action to file the case. [Ranjita Pati v. D.N. Homes (P) Ltd., Complaint Case No. 4 of 2021, decide don 2-12-2021]


Advocates before the Authority:

Advocate for the complaint: C. Ray and associates

Advocate for the respondents: P.C. Mohapatra and associates

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): Coram of Justice R.K. Agrawal (President) and Dr S.M. Kantikar (Member)reiterated that the presence of an arbitration clause in the agreement does not bar the jurisdiction of consumer fora.

Grievance of the Buyer

Complainants alleged that the Project in which they had booked their flat has not been completed till date even after about 8 years from the date of the booking. OP developer indulged in unfair trade practices by utilizing the money collected from the complainants, for its personal gains on benefits and further diverted the funds collected from the complainants to its other projects.

Complainants noting that the project has not even reached the 50% completion stage, clearly showed that the OP had no intention of developing/completing the project.

It was also alleged that even after 8 years, the construction of the project is not even close to completion, there are no laying of roads, utility supplies, access/service roads, facilities, clubs, no sign of rail over bridge etc. It was further alleged that the unexpected, unreasonable and inordinate delay in developing and constructing the project, and facilities and also the delay in handing over possession of the flat, clearly amounts to deficiency in services.

Builder’s Contention

OP contended that the present Complaint is not maintainable in light of Clause 33 of the Agreement executed between the Parties, according to which, all or any disputes arising out of or touching upon or in relation to the terms of the Agreement including its interpretation and validity and the respective rights and obligations of the parties have to be settled amicably by mutual discussion failing which the disputes have to be settled through arbitration. The Opposite Party has further submitted that Complainant 1 has no privity of contract with the Opposite Party and no relief can be granted to the said Buyer’s Association.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Coram while analysing the matter and noting the contention with respect to the arbitration clause relied on the Supreme Court decision of Emaar MGF Land Ltd. v. Aftab Singh – I, (2015) CPJ 5 (SC), in which it was laid down that an Arbitration clause on the agreement does not bar the jurisdiction of the Consumer Fora to entertain the complaint.

Hence, the objection raised by the Counsel for the OP that the clause of the Arbitration bars this commission from entertaining the complaint was unsustainable.

Counsel’s contention for the Developer that the Complainants are not ‘Consumers’ and that the subject Flats were booked for investment purpose was completely unsustainable in the light of the judgement of this Commission in Kavita Ahuja v. Shipra Estates I (2016) CPJ 31, in which the principle laid down is that the onus of establishing that the Complainants were dealing in real estate i.e. in the purchase and sale of plots/ flats in his normal course of business to earn profits, shifts to the OP Developer, which in the instant case the Opposite Party Developer had failed to discharge.

Further, as per Clause 4.5 of the Agreement of the Flat Buyer Agreement, in case of failure to deliver possession, the OP developer was liable to refund the amounts paid by the allottees with simple interest 10% pa for the period such amounts were laying with the Developer/SPV and to pay not other compensation whatsoever, whereas, in terms of Clause 1.19 in case of late payment, the Complainant/Buyer is liable to pay interest @18% p.a.

The above-stated terms depicted that they were wholly one-sided and unfair, therefore the complainant cannot be made bound to the terms of the agreement.

Elaborating further, Commission stated that it was not in dispute that the Complainants were allotted the Flats in the year 2009 and till date the construction of the flat has not been completed.

Coram opined that buyer cannot be made to wait indefinitely for the delivery of possession and the act of OP with regard to relying on Farmers’ agitation while retaining the amounts deposited by the complainants was not only an act of deficiency of service but also amounted to Unfair Trade Practice.

Direction

Complainants are entitled to refund of the principal amount with a reasonable interest of @9% p.a. from the date of the respective date of deposit till the date of actual refund. [Ansal API Megapolis Buyer’s Assn. v. Ansal Hi-Tech Townships Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine NCDRC 330, decided on 8-11-2021]


Advocates before the Commission:

For the Complainants: Mr Saurabh Jain, Advocate

For the Opposite Party: Mr Rakesh Kumar, Advocate Mr Rupesh Kumar Sinha, Advocate

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): Expressing that the builder cannot take shelter of “Force Majeure” while delay in handing over possession Coram of C. Viswanath (Presiding Member) and Ram Surat Ram Maurya (Member) directed for a refund of buyers’ amount along with interest.

Facts in a Nutshell

Complainants had booked a unit in OP’s project and paid a booking amount as well. Later they were allotted a unit vide an allotment letter.

Subsequently, an Apartment Buyer’s Agreement was executed, wherein possession of the unit was promised within 39 months from the date of excavation, excluding an additional grace period of 6 months to complete the project.

Grievance

The grievance of the Complainants was that the OP, despite receiving more than 90% of the total consideration, failed to hand over possession of the Unit, within the promised time period and even possession in the near future seemed unlikely.

Contentions of the OP

OP while contending that the possession could not be delivered in time because some of the customers did not make timely payments also added that there was a shortage of labour due to construction of Commonwealth Games Village, shortage of water, dispute with construction agencies, delays in obtaining licenses, approvals, etc. Further, it was added that as per the Agreement, in case of delay caused due to “Force Majeure” events, the OP would be entitled to an extension of time, without incurring any liability.

Though, the Opposite Party failed to prove that there was an unforeseen and unexpected event that prevented the completion of the Project within the stipulated time period.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Commission expressed that the OP cannot take shelter of the “Force Majeure” Clause and the reasons cited by the OP for the delay of the project, appeared to be delaying tactics veiled as “Force Majeure” conditions and seemed to be an attempt to wriggle out of its contractual obligations.

It was noted that even after receiving the substantial amount OP failed to fulfil its contractual obligation of delivering possession of the Unit to the complainant within the time stipulated.

Conclusion

A person cannot be made to wait indefinitely for the possession of the flats allotted to him/her. The Complainants are, therefore, entitled to seek the refund of the amount paid along with compensation. [Manoj Kawatra v. Pioneer Urban Land & Infrastructure, 2021 SCC OnLine NCDRC 325, decided on 1-11-2021]


Advocates before the Commission:

For the Complainant: Aditya Parolia, Advocate

For the OP: T.V.S. Raghavendra Sreyas, Advocate

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): Noting unfair trade practice by the builder while insisting the buyers to sign a paper wherein it was stated “that they were receiving possession in full ready condition” which was false, Coram of C. Viswanath (Presiding Member) and Justice Ram Surat Ram Maurya (Member) allowed the complaint of the buyer and directed refund of their amount along with compensation of Rs 1 lakh.

Complainants filed a complaint about directing the OP (Builder) to refund the amount deposited by the complainants along with interest from the date of each deposit till its payment. Compensation was also sought for mental agony and harassment.

Factual Background

Present complaint emerged from the documents attached with it. Builders launched a project wherein the complainant booked a villa and were allotted a Unit. Payment plan was “Construction Linked Payment Plan”. Agreement for Sale and Agreement for Construction were executed between the parties.

Complainants diligently followed the payment plan and deposited money as and when demanded by the builder, but the builder delayed the construction.

In 2017, the complainants were invited to take possession of the villa and on reaching the villa, they found that the villa was not complete in all respect and was not in a liveable condition. On the other hand, the builder was insisting to sign the paper, in which, it was written that they were receiving possession of the villa in fully ready condition.

Complainants did not agree to sign that paper and were disappointed with the attitude of the builder, who was insisting to sign above said paper in the garb of alleged rule of the builder that if they wanted to take key of the villa then they had to sign it.

Complainants sought for refund vide a legal notice, but no reply was given by the builder.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Commission noted that the builder did not raise any dispute that the complainants had committed any default in payment, on issue of demand notice.

According to the builder, the construction was completed in August, 2017, as such, there was delay in construction for more than two years, according to their own version.

Clause-E(2) of Agreement For Construction provides as follows:-

“2. Possession/Handing over Possession in this agreement is limited to the developer obtaining Completion Certificate from the concerned local authority/Project Architect and intimating the purchaser to take possession of the Villa.”

Builder nowhere stated that he had obtained a Completion Certificate. Instead, he argued while relying upon Rule 20 of Tamil Nadu Combined Development and Building Rules, 2019 and argued that “Completion Certificate” was not required for the villa. The said Rules were not in existence in 2017.

The paper, which the builder insisted the buyers sign upon stated that they were receiving the possession of the villa in fully ready condition, in the garb of alleged rule of the builder that if they wanted to take key of the villa then they had to sign it.

In Commission’s opinion, the above was an unfair trade practice.

Offering possession of incomplete construction and without obtaining “Completion Certificate” does not justify the act of the builder.

 Therefore, complaint was allowed with cost of Rs 1 lakh and builder was directed to refund the entire amount along with interest @9% per annum within a period of 2 months.[Suman Kumar Jha v. Mantri Technology Constellations Pvt. Ltd., Consumer Case No. 54 of 2018, decided on 29-10-2021]


Advocates before the Commission:

For the Complainant: Mr Aditya Parolia, Advocate

For the Opp. Party: Mr Sunder Patjoshi, Senior Advocate and Mr. Manish Tiwari, Advocate

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): In a builder-buyer dispute, Coram of Justice R.K. Agrawal (President) and Dr S.M. Kantikar (Member) noting the 9 years delay in delivery of possession of the apartment directed refund to the buyer.

Instant complaint was filed under Section 21 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 against Wave Mega City Centre (P) Limited.

Factual Background

Complainants lured by the eye-catching advertisements and assurances given by the representatives of the Developer, applied for the allotment of an apartment. Vide the allotment letter, complainants were allotted an apartment.

An allottee arrangement was also executed between the parties. As per the Agreement, the possession of the apartment was to be delivered within 48 months from the date of the execution of the agreement by July 2016 with a grace period of 6 months.

Complainants kept following up with the Developer regarding the date of possession by visiting their office, but the Developer gave false assurances to the Complainants about the delivery of possession.

Complainants alleged that despite collecting a hefty amount from the complainants, the developer has neither offered the possession of the apartment to the complainants till date nor has refunded the amount collected from them.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Commission stated that it cannot ask the complainant to wait indefinitely for possession of the Flat, as the construction was yet to be completed even after almost 9 years from the date of booking.

Therefore, Coram opined that complainants were entitled to the refund of the amount with reasonable interest.

Commission partly allowed the complaint with a direction to the Developer to refund the entire deposited amount with interest in the form of compensation @ 9% per annum. [Mili Jain v. Wave City Centre Pvt. Ltd., Consumer Case No. 3304 of 2017, decided on 29-10-2021]


Advocates before the Commission:

For the Complainants: Mr Jalaj Agarwal, Advocate

For the OP: Ms Shreya Nair, Advocate

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (DSCDRC): Coram of Dr Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal (President) and Anil Srivastava (Member)ordered the builder to refund the money deposited by the complainant, as a consequence of not being able to deliver the possession of flat on time. However, it was held that the builder was not liable to refund the EMI amount paid by the complainant towards loan sanctioned in favour of the complainant.

 Present consumer complaint was filed under Section 17 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 against OP 1 and OP 2.

Complainant had applied for booking of a flat in the OP 1’s project and was allotted a flat for the total sale consideration which was agreed at Rs 44,99,387.

Complainant and OP 1 entered into a Flat Buyers Agreement. It was stated in the agreement that the possession of the flat was to be delivered within 18 months from execution of the agreement along with a grace period of 6 months. Though, OP 1 failed to adhere to the stipulated time for delivery of possession and hence the complainant had to withdraw from the project.

Further, OP 1 informed the complainant regarding the deduction. Adding to this, it was submitted that the service tax paid on the entire transaction would also be forfeited.

Complainant got served a legal notice dated 03-10-2015, upon the OP 1 and sought refund of the amount deducted along with compensation for mental agony and harassment.

Alleging deficiency of service and unfair trade practice on the part of OP 1, the complainant approached this commission.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Territorial and Pecuniary Jurisdiction

Whether this commission has the jurisdiction to adjudicate the present complaint?

Coram on perusal of Section 17 of the Consumer Protection Act lead the Commission to the conclusion that it shall have the pecuniary jurisdiction in cases where the total claim including the compensation is more than twenty lakhs and less than One Crore. Moreover, clause 17(2) of the Act provides the extent of territorial jurisdiction, wherein it has been provided that the state commission shall have the jurisdiction to entertain cases where OP 1 at the time of the institution of the complaint, actually and voluntarily resides or carries on business or has a branch office or personally works for gain or the cause of action arose.

Hence, the commission has pecuniary jurisdiction in the present matter.

To strengthen the above finding, Coram relied on the Rohit Srivastava v. Paramount Villas (P) Ltd., 2017 SCC OnLine NCDRC 1198.

Further, the Coram stated that relying on the above case, this Commission has both territorial and pecuniary jurisdiction.

Deficiency of Service 

The stated expression of Deficiency of Service was dealt with by the Supreme Court in Arifur Rahman Khan v. DLF Southern Homes (P) Ltd., (2020) 16 SCC 512.

In Commission’s opinion, OP 1 was deficient in providing its services to the complainant since it had failed to handover the possession of the flat within the stipulated time period and the complainant was entitled to the refund of the money deposited to OP1.

OP 1’s deduction was not justified as the complainant had sought cancellation of the booking of the flat on account of deficient services provided by OP 1, hence the complainant was entitled to refund of the amount forfeited.

However, the Complainant was not entitled to receive an amount of Rs 6,33,289/- since this amount was paid as EMIs towards the loan sanctioned in favour of the Complainant. The OP 1 has no obligation to pay the EMI amount, since there exists no express agreement pertaining to the payment of EMIs to be done by the OP 1. [Kapila Narula v. Logix City Developers (P) Ltd., Complaint No. 149 of 2016, decided on 16-08-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Ms. Suchita Sharma, Counsel for the Complainant.

Ms. Arushi Pathak, Counsel for the Opposite Party.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench of Uday Umesh Lalit, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ., while giving major relief to homebuyers, held that rights of purchasers are the same as that of original allottees.

Appellant (builder) was aggrieved by the order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC).

Respondent (Purchaser) sought a direction against the builder, for a refund of the consideration amount of Rs 1,93,70, 883 received by the latter as consideration for the sale of a flat along with interest from the date different instalments were paid as well as compensation and costs.

Factual Matrix

As per the allotment letter, the possession of the flat was to be handed over within 36 months. The original allottee made payment to the tune of ₹1,55,89,329/-, for the first seven instalments as demanded by the builder.

After noticing the slow pace of construction, the original allottee decided to sell the flat. The purchaser who was in search of a residential flat was approached by her through a broker. He was assured that the possession of the flat would be delivered on time, and he agreed to purchase the flat and paid an amount of 1,00,000/- as advance towards the total sale consideration of ₹1,55,89,329/.

Further, it was submitted that the purchaser alleged that possession was not delivered in October, 2015 as promised (in the allotment letter).

Purchaser decided to wait for the possession and not to make any payment towards the sale; however, the original allottee insisted upon the execution of an agreement to sell and demanded payment of instalments, which she had made to the builder, stating that she could not wait for any further and she would forfeit the earnest money and cancel the deal.

The purchaser alleged that he made enquiries from the officials of the builder, who assured that the possession would be delivered by June 2016. Therefore, the purchaser, on 17.02.2016, entered into an agreement of sale with the original allottee, and paid an amount of ₹1,85,00,000/-.

Later, original allottee requested the builder to transfer the flat in favor of the respondent. Purchaser visited the site to acquaint himself with the extent of construction but he was denied entry by the builder’s employees citing security reasons and was informed that the possession would be delivered shortly.

But till the end of the year 2017, possession of the said flat was not delivered.

In view of the above-stated facts, the purchaser sought a refund of the amount, but was in vain. Purchaser expressed his shock on receiving the demand letter for the 11th instalment. But on refusal for the same, builder’s officials threatened the purchaser of cancellation and forfeiture of the amounts paid.

Hence, the appellant had approached the NCDRC for a direction to the builder to refund the entire amount with interest at the rate of 24%.

NCDRC ordered the following:

“…we direct the Developer to refund the amount deposited with the developer.”

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench noted that the builder’s principal argument was that the rights of a purchaser were not the same as the original allottee.

Supreme Court expressed that the builder did not deny that upon issuance of the endorsement letter, the purchaser not only stepped into the shoes of the original allottee but also became entitled to receive possession of the flat.

Whether a subsequent purchaser is not entitled to similar treatment as the original allottee, and can be denied relief which otherwise the original allottee would have been entitled to, had she or he continued with the arrangement?

Purchasers step into the shoes of Original Allottees

An individual such as the original allottee, enters into an agreement to purchase the flat in an ongoing project where delivery is promised.

The terms of the agreement as well as the assurance by the builder are that the flat would be made available within a time- frame.

It is commonplace that in a large number of such transactions, allottees are not able to finance the flat but seek advances and funds from banks or financial institutions, to which they mortgage the property. The mortgage pay-outs start initially after an agreed period, commencing in a span of about 15 to 24 months after the agreement. This would mean that in most cases, allottees start repaying the bank or financial institutions with instalments (mostly equated monthly instalments) towards the principal and the interest spread over a period of time, even before the flats are ready.

Bench in view of the above-stated expressed that,

“…prolongation of the project would involve serious economic repercussions upon such original allottees who are on the one hand compelled to pay instalments and, in addition, quite often -if she or he is in want of a house -also pay monthly rents. Such burdens become almost intolerable.”

 Hence, allottees cannot indefinitely wait and prefer to find purchasers who might step into their shoes.

Conclusion

Supreme Court on perusal of the facts and circumstances of the case decided that the nature and extent of relief, to which a subsequent purchaser can be entitled to, would be fact dependent.

Adding to the above, Court elaborated that, it cannot be said that a subsequent purchaser who steps into the shoes of an original allottee of a housing project in which the builder has not honoured its commitment to deliver the flat within a stipulated time, cannot expect any – even reasonable time, for the performance of the builder’s obligation. Such a conclusion would be arbitrary, given that there may be a large number- possibly thousands of flat buyers, waiting for their promised flats or residences; they surely would be entitled to all reliefs under the Act.

Since the purchaser agreed to buy the flat with a reasonable expectation that delivery of possession would be in accordance within the bounds of the delayed timeline that he had knowledge of, at the time of purchase of the flat.

Therefore, in the event the purchaser claims refund, on an assessment that he too can (like the original allottee) no longer wait, and face intolerable burdens, the equities would have to be moulded. Hence, it would be unfair to assume that the purchaser had knowledge of the delay.

The equities, in the opinion of this court, can properly be moulded by directing refund of the principal amounts, with interest @ 9% per annum from the date the builder acquired knowledge of the transfer, or acknowledged it.

In view of the above discussion, the order of the NCDRC was modified. [Laureate Buildwell (P) Ltd. v. Charanjeet Singh, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 479, decided on 22-07-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of S.J. Kathawalla and Milind N. Jadhav, JJ., directed the builders who failed to refund the buyers their amount to date to establish that they are virtually paupers not having funds in their bank accounts and their standard of living also bears out the same.

Instant petition was filed by a retired pensioner. It was submitted that the petitioner by registered sale agreement purchased a residential flat for a total consideration of Rs 62, 77,310.

Respondents 6 and 7 were the partners of Respondent 5-Firm.

It was submitted that the possession of the said flat was to be given by 31-05-2015. An amount of Rs 61,58, 136 was paid from time to time to respondent 5 towards the purchase of the said flat. Though the building could not be completed due to several irregularities.

Petitioner filed a statutory complaint with respondent 4 – Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority seeking withdrawal from the project and refund of monies paid along with interest. Respondent 4 directed respondent 5 to refund the amount collected with the interest of @10.05% p.a.

Petitioner had again approached the respondents 5 to 7 for seeking compliance with the RERA Order, yet the same was neglected. Further, an execution application was filed wherein recovery warrant was issued under Section 40(1) of the RERA Act against respondents 5 to 7 which was forwarded to respondent 2 – Collector for execution and enforcement.

Till 2018, no action took place.

Further, the petitioner apprehended that the respondents 5 to 7 were attempting to avoid and delay the execution of the Recovery Warrant and meanwhile they were disposing of their assets in order to circumvent the due process of law.

In 2021, respondents 5 to 7 approached the petitioner for settlement, however, they committed default in payment of the first installment itself and breached the Memorandum of Understanding.

Petitioner, being aggrieved by the laxity on the part of the Statutory Authorities in execution and enforcement of the Recovery Warrant, approached this Court by the present petition.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench noted that respondents 5 to 7 have repeatedly brazenly breached the orders passed by this Court as well as undertakings given to this Court.

The said respondent’s counsel again reiterated in the Court that the respondents do not have any funds and they shall be in a position to pay only a sum of Rs 10 lacs only on 25-08-2021.

In view of the above stated, Court directed the respondents 5 to 7 to give complete disclosure of their movable and immovable, encumbered and unencumbered assets and properties before the next date. They shall also produce their bank statements as well as accounts operated by the firms/s and/ or companies in which they are partners and/or directors; particulars of their standard of living, as indicated through their electricity bills, their credit card statement/ s and the income tax returns that they have failed in the last three years.

Hence, the matter was adjourned to enable the respondent’s advocate to satisfy the Court that they do not have funds whatsoever.

Therefore, respondents 5 to 7 have repeatedly not only taken several flats, purchasers, for a ride, by taking their hard-earned monies and not providing them with their flats on time, nor returning their hard-earned monies, but have also repeatedly taken the Courts for a ride by giving solemn undertaking/s in order to avoid any adverse orders being passed against them, knowing fully well that they have no intention to honour the undertaking/s given by them to the Court. They are also well aware that assignments keep changing from time to time and they can, therefore, endeavour to convince the next Judge taking up the said assignment to grant them further extension of time to make payment, which order would once again be breached with impunity.

In view of the above, the matter was adjourned to 22-07-2021. [Arun Parshuram Veer v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 1132, decided on 3-07-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr. Nilesh Gala i/by Law Square for the Petitioner

 Mr. P.G. Sawant, AGP for Respondents 1 to 3 – State

Mr. Ashutosh M. Kulkarni a/w Mr. Akshay Kulkarni for Respondent 4

Mr. Makarand V. Raut a/w Mr. Manoj Nikam for Respondents 5 to 7

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority, Mumbai: Coram of Dr Vijay Satbir Singh (Member I), while laying out certain significant observations with respect to the provisions of RERA decided the complaint revolving around delayed possession of flat.

Background

By preferring the present complaint, complainants sought directions from the MahaRERA to the respondent to pay the interest for the delayed possession under Section 18 of the Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act, 2016 (RERA) in respect of booking their respective flats in the respondent’s project.

Respondent failed to hand over the possession of the flat on time. Complainants sought payment of interest for the delayed possession and further stated that even after the respondent sold more than 50% of the units, it failed to form the association of allottees/ society of allottees till date. The respondent has also failed to execute the deed of conveyance with the complainants along with the other allottees of the project.

Further, it was alleged that the respondent was yet to hand over and allot the parking spaces to respective allottees and was demanding permission from the allottees to utilize the additional FSI and construct the additional floors.

Complainants further stated that they have signed the possession letter and have received the possession of their respective flats in the month of December 2019, though respondent was not ready to allot the parking as well as to form the society of the allottees.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Since the respondent did not hand over the possession of the flats to the complainants and violated the provisions of Section 18 of the RERA and the Rules made thereunder.

Bench did not accept the reasons cited by the respondent for the delay in possession of the flat and apparently the respondent promoter wanted to apply convenient clauses in the agreement to take undue benefits after commencement of the RERA.

Formation of Society and Execution of Conveyance Deed

As per Section 11(4)(e) of the RERA, promoter is liable to enable the formation of society within 3 months of the majority of allottees having booked their flats.

In the present matter, more than 51% of the allottees booked their flats and the full occupancy certificate had been obtained for the said project, hence it was statutory duty of respondent promoter to form a society of the allottees and the respondent had no authority to lay down any condition for the same as it was not permissible under RERA.

Construction of Additional 4th Floor

MahaRERA opined that the present project was registered with MahaRERA after commencement of the RERA and hence provisions of RERA would apply for this project.

Hence, as per Section 14 of the RERA, any change or modification in the sanctioned plan required mandatory consent of the allottees and therefore, if respondent wanted to modify plans including the construction of 4th floor, then it had to be obtained through requisite consent of allottees.

Adding to the above, MahaRERA held that the respondent was liable to pay interest for the period of delay in accordance with the terms and conditions of the agreement.

Selling of the Car Parking

 stated that there is an explicit provision under RERA that promoter can sell only covered car parking by charging a certain amount. Open Parking had to be handed over to society, it could not be sold in the open market.

Therefore, complainant allottees and respondent promoter were bound by the said provision.

Following Order was passed:

  • Respondent directed to pay interest to the complainants till the date of occupancy certificate.
  • Respondent promoter was entitled to claim the benefit of “moratorium period”.
  • Since the complainants want to continue in the project, they are entitled to seek interest for the delayed possession under section 18 of the RERA.
  • Respondent/Promoter directed to form a society as per the provision of Section 11(4)(e) of RERA
  • With regard to construction of additional floor, without the consent of the 2/3rd allottees, the same could not be constructed.
  • It was also directed that respondent was entitled to sell only covered car parking and no cash money be demanded from the allottees.

[Deepesh Singh v. Neelkanth Constructions, Complaint No. CC006000000089761, decided on 30-07-2020]


Advocates before the Authority:

Adv. Nilesh Garde appeared for all the complainants. Adv.Khushiram Jadhvani a/w. Adv. Manali Saraf appeared for the respondent.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Pankaj Naqvi and Piyush Agrawal, JJ., issued a general mandamus to Competent Authorities under U.P. Apartment Act, 2010 and U.P. Industrial Area Development Act, 1976 or any other cognate enactment to decide the grievances of home buyers within 3 months from the date the grievance is brought to their knowledge.

State of U.P. taking cognizance of the rise in population and demand for space especially for residential purposes enacted U.P. Apartment (Promotion of Construction Ownership and Maintenance) Act, 2010.

It has been stated that the object of the Act is to give primacy to the interest of the owners of the apartments and protection of their rights against arbitrary and profit-oriented actions of the promoters/builders in which a role of an arbiter has been assigned to the competent authority in the Development Authority as held in Designarch Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. vs. Vice Chairman, Ghaziabad Development Authority, 2013 (9) ADJ 594.

Genesis of the instant petition

Bench has taken judicial notice that a large number of cases have been coming before the Court on behalf of the home-buyers who after having spent their hard-earned life savings, buy an apartment, only to face hostile and arbitrary actions from the promoters/builders/Development Authorities and instead of resolving such disputes, they become mute spectators.

Irregularities highlighted by Home-Buyers

Petitioner by the instant petition has highlighted several irregularities in violation of their agreements on the part of the respondent 3 being the developer co-promoter of the residential project “Shipra Shritsti” which despite several representations to respondent 2 have gone unattended.

High Court deemed it appropriate to issue a general mandamus to the competent authorities to dispose of the grievance of home-buyers within a stipulated period so as to obviate an individual home-buyer or a registered association, as the case may be, from approaching this Court time and again.

Further, the Court added that the benefit of this order shall also be extended to the competent authority envisaged under the U.P. Industrial Area Development Act, 1976 and other cognate enactments.

Court issues directions

Following were the directions issued by the High Court in light of the above discussion:

(i) A general mandamus is issued to the Competent Authorities under U.P. Apartment Act, 2010 & U.P. Industrial Area Development Act, 1976 or any other cognate enactment to decide the grievance of the home- buyers or their associations, positively within 3 months from the date the grievance is brought to their knowledge, by reasoned and speaking order under intimation to the aggrieved persons.

(ii) The Competent Authority shall ensure that before any decision is taken, a right of audience is given to the parties concerned.

(iii) The Competent Authority shall ensure that an officer not below the rank of a Gazetted Officer shall periodically visit the apartment/building at least once in 6 months at a prior notice to the registered association which shall be obliged to circulate it amongst its member so as to give them an opportunity to ventilate their grievance if any. Any reported violation shall be immediately brought to the notice of the Authority concerned which shall immediately take remedial steps.

(iv) Any inaction on the part of Competent Authority shall be construed as a serious dereliction of duty, warranting interference from the State Government.

[Shipra Sristhi Apartment v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine All 43, decided on 05-01-2021]


Advocate for the Parties:

Counsel for Petitioner: Abhinav Gaur, Anoop Trivedi (Senior Adv.), Vibhu Rai

Counsel for Respondent: C.S.C., Ravi Prakash Pandey, Rohan Gupta, Tarun Agrawal

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-Judge Bench of Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, JJ., observed that

“Developer cannot compel the apartment buyers to be bound by the one-sided contractual terms contained in the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement.”

Judgment passed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission is in Challenge

Appellant-Developer challenged the decision of NCDRC wherein refund of the amounts deposited by the Apartment Buyers was directed on account of inordinate delay in completing the construction and obtaining the Occupation Certificate.

Issues for Consideration:

  • Determination of the date from which the 42 months period for handing over possession is to be calculated under Clause 13.3, whether it would be from the date of issuance of the Fire NOC as contended by the Developer; or, from the date of sanction of the Building Plans, as contended by the Apartment Buyers;
  • Whether the terms of the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement were one-sided, and the Apartment Buyers would not be bound by the same;
  • Whether the provisions of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 must be given primacy over the Consumer Protection Act, 1986;
  • Whether on account of the inordinate delay in handing over possession, the Apartment Buyers were entitled to terminate the agreement, and claim a refund of the amounts deposited with interest.

Analysis

Bench made a pointwise analysis of the instant matter wherein in the first issue, the point of controversy was whether the 42 months’ period is to be calculated from the date when the Fire NOC was granted by the authority concerned as contended by the Developer; or, the date on which the Building Plans were approved as contended by the Apartment Buyers.

In accordance with Section 15 of the Haryana Fire Safety Act, 2009, it is mandatory for a Builder/Developer to obtain the approval of the Fire Fighting Scheme conforming to the National Building Code of India, and obtain a ‘No objection Certificate’ before the commencement of construction.

Clause 13.3 of the Apartment Buyer’s Agreement provides that the 42 months’ period has to be calculated from the date of approval of Building Plans and/or fulfilment of the pre-conditions imposed thereunder.

Bench opined that it was a mandatory requirement under the Haryana Fire Safety Act, 2009 to obtain the Fire NOC before the commencement of construction activity. The said requirement was stipulated in the sanctioned Building Plans, as also in the Environment Clearance.

 The 42 months‘ period in Clause 13.3. of the Agreement for handing over possession of the apartments would be required to be computed from the date on which Fire NOC was issued, and not from the date of the Building Plans being sanctioned.

In the instant matter, there was a delay of approximately 7 months in obtaining the fire NOC by Developer.

Whether the terms of the Apartment Buyer’s Agreement are one-sided?

Court observed on perusal of the clauses mentioned in the Agreement that the said clauses were wholly one-sided terms of the Agreement Buyer’s Agreement, which were entirely loaded in favour of the Developer and against the allottee at every step.

For the said issue, Court held that the terms of the Apartment Buyer‘s Agreement are oppressive and wholly one-sided, and would constitute an unfair trade practice under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Incorporation of one-sided and unreasonable clauses in the Apartment Buyer’s Agreement constitutes an unfair trade practice under Section 2(1)(r) of the Consumer Protection Act.

Whether primacy to be given to RERA over the Consumer Protection Act?

Bench expressed that this Court has upheld the applicability of provisions of Consumer Protection Act as an additional remedy, despite the existence of remedies under special statutes, including the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.

In the decision of  Emaar MGF Land Ltd. v. Aftab Singh, (2019) 12 SCC 751, it was held that the remedy under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is confined to the Complaint filed by a Consumer as defined by the Act, for defects and deficiency caused by the service provider.

In a recent decision of this Court in Imperia Structures Ltd. v. Anil Patni, (2020) 10 SCC 783, it was held that remedies under the Consumer Protection Act were in addition to the remedies available under special statutes. The absence of a bar under Section 79 of the RERA Act to the initiation of proceedings before a fora which is not a civil court, read with Section 88 of the RERA Act makes the position clear. Section 18 of the RERA Act specifies that the remedies are “without prejudice to any other remedy available”.

Whether the Apartment Buyers are entitled to terminate the Agreement or refund of the amount deposited with Delay Compensation?

Answering this issue, the Court categorised the buyer/allottees into two categories:

  • Apartment Buyers whose allotments fall in Phase 1 of the project comprised in Towers A6 to A10, B1 to B4, and C3 to C7, where the Developer has been granted occupation certificate, and offer of possession has been made
  • Apartment Buyers whose allotments fall in Phase 2 of the project, where the allotments are in Towers A1 to A5, B5 to B8, C8 to C11, where the Occupation Certificate has not been granted so far.

For category 1, it was held that such allottees (barring an exception) were obligated to take possession of the apartments, since the construction was completed, and possession offered on 28-06-2019, after the issuance of Occupation Certificate on 31-05-2019. The Developer is however obligated to pay Delay Compensation for the period of delay which has occurred from  27-11-2018 till the date of the offer of possession was made to the allottees.

So far category 2 is concerned, it was held that such allottees are entitled to refund of entire amount deposited by them, along with compensation and interest.

In view of the above discussion, civil appeals were disposed of. [Ireo Grace Realtech (P) Ltd. v. Abhishek Khanna, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 14, decided on 11-01-2021]

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): V.K. Jain (Presiding Member), held that homebuyers cannot be made to wait indefinitely for the possession of the plots allotted to them and they are entitled to refund of the amount which they paid

Developer Company was selected by Government of Uttar Pradesh for the development of a township in Greater Noida in the name of ‘Sushant-Megapolis’.

No Time Frame

Large number of complainants booked residential plots and executed agreements with the OP. In the agreement, no time frame for delivering possession of the plots to the allottees was incorporated but the complainants were verbally told that the possession would be handed over within 36 months from the execution of the agreement.

Case of the Complainants

Complainants stated that the township has not been developed, hence no possession was offered to them along with other allottees.

Class Action

Therefore complainants approached the commission by way of class action under Section 12(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act seeking a refund of the amount paid by the allottees along with compensation.

Vide an order in 2017, Commission granted the permission to the complainants to institute this complaint on behalf of all the allotted who wanted a refund of the amount paid to the OP. Hence, public notice in two newspapers, circulated in Delhi/NCR were published and several allottees were permitted to join the complaint.

Preliminary objection raised by the OP was that the complaint is barred by limitation.

Analysis & Decision

OP having not completed the development and having not offered possession of the allotted plots to the allottees, they had a recurrent cause of action to file the Consumer Complaint, bench relied on the decision of Meerut Development Authority v. Mukesh Kumar Gupta, (2012) CPJ 12 (SC).

Commission found no merit in the above contention.

Farmers’ Protest | Compulsory Acquisition

With regard to delay in development due to the farmer’s protest, bench on perusal of the communication sent by OP noted that there was no dispute with the farmers as the land comprised in the project namely ‘Megapolis’ was concerned, the said land having been purchased by the complainant on market rate with the consent of landowners, the said case is not of compulsory acquisition of land by the State government.

Small Parcels of Land | Patches required to be acquired from State Government

The proposed project was a large land acquired directly from the farmers, though there were some small patches which were to be acquired from the State Government. OP having advertised the project and having executed the agreements for development and sale of plots, it was for them to purchase those small patches of land from the landowners at a negotiated price even if they had to pay a price higher than the price they were willing to pay.

Hence, it could not be said that the non-acquisition of such small parcels of land delayed the project.

Further, the bench stated that even if the plea taken by the OP with respect to non-acquisition of those small parcels of land is accepted on its face value, the allottees cannot be made to suffer for the inability of the OP to acquire those land parcels.

It’s been 12 years since the sale of the said plots started, but till this date, it is not known whether the OP will be able to complete the development work and if so when the said development would be completed.

Class Action

Counsel for the complainant stated that they have settled with eleven allottees other than the original complainants and they are in negotiations with thirteen other allottees.

For the above-stated, Commission stated that even if the above situation prevails, that would not lead to the dismissal of the class action. Once the jurisdiction of this Commission by way of a class action is invoked, the Commission is required to take the matter to its logical conclusion unless the matter is settled with each and every member of the class.

No Specific Time Period

Commission added to its analysis that though no specific time period for completing the development and offering possession to the allottees was indicated in the agreement, that would not entitle the builder to prolong the development work to an indefinite period.

As far as the development of plots is concerned, such a work does not require as much time as required for construction of group housing flats in multistoried buildings.

“…the development work of the plots, even on a large scale, must be completed within a period of three years from the approval of the lay-out plans.”

Bench relied on the Supreme Court decision of Pioneer Urband Land & Infrastructure Ltd. v. Govindan Raghavan, (2019) 5 SCC 725 and Kolkata West International City (P) Ltd. v. Devasis Rudra II, (2019) CPJ 29 (SC).

In view of the above discussion, Commission held that the allottees of residential plot in the project namely ‘Sushant Megapolis’ cannot be made to wait indefinitely for the possession of the plots allotted to them and they are entitled to refund of the amount which they paid to the OP along with appropriate compensation.

Further, the OP shall refund the entire principal amount received and pay Rs 50,000 as cost of litigation.[Bhrigu Kaushik v. Ansal Hi-Tech Township Ltd., Consumer Case No. 1951 of 2016, decided on 16-10-2020]

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC):  A Division Bench of Dr S.M. Kantikar (Presiding Member) and Dinesh Singh (Member) held that, a homebuyer cannot be made to wait indefinitely for possession.

The instant appeal was preferred by the appellant under Section 19 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 against the Order passed by the Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission wherein OP was directed to handover the possession of the subject flat to the respondent — complainant after receiving the balance consideration amount from respondent — complainant.

Advocates for the appellant — Siddhesh Bhole, Royden Fernandes and Deepam Rangwani.

Advocates for the respondent — Sukruta A. Chimalker and S.B. Prabhavalkar.

State Commission held that there was a deficiency on the part of the OP is not handing over possession and not obtaining the necessary certificates for the subject flat.

Opposite Party was directed to handover possession of the flat within three months after receiving the remaining consideration of Rs. 5.50 lakh as well as to provide Occupancy Certificate and Building Completion Certificate to the Complainant.

Aggrieved with the State Commission’s order, OP filed an appeal before the Commission.

Bench noted that the complainant had paid Rs 11 lakhs by cheque to the OP towards consideration for the subject agreement. OP contended that the subject agreement was cancelled by the complainant.

On perusal of the cancellation letter, it was evident that for more than 2 years, there was no construction work/development at the site of the project. Complainant was also paying interest on the amount paid to the Opposite Party builder firm, therefore, the Complainant requested the Opposite Party to return the entire amount paid.

With regard to the delivery of possession, OP contended that the agreement did not mention the date of delivery of possession of the said flat to the Complainant. However, the buyer cannot be made to wait for an indefinite period.

It was OP’s duty itself to mention the date of delivery of possession in the agreement and failure to do so necessarily requires to be read against the OP. In all contingencies, the complainant could not have been made to wait indefinitely for possession.

OP argued that State Commission grossly erred in disregarding the applicability of the relevant provisions of Specific Relief Act, 1963.

In the above regard, the Court noted that the Act 1986 is for better protection of the interests of consumers, to provide speedy and simple redressal to consumer disputes.

Section 3 specifically provides that the provisions of this Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force.

In the year 2003, the complainant requested for refund of the entire amount paid by her but OP did not refund the amount paid with or without interest.

Commission opined that the State Commission’s order was reasoned, hence the instant appeal being misconceived and bereft of merit was dismissed.[Adrian Pereira v. Anita Ronald Lewis, 2020 SCC OnLine NCDRC 466, decided on 16-10-2020]

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): A Division Bench of Justice R.K. Agarwal (President) and Dr S.M. Kantikar (Member) decided three complaints in a combined order as the facts were similar.

The complainant had booked three residential flats floated by Opposite Party — Builder Co. Possession of these flats was to be given by the end of the year 2018, however, the builder Co. unilaterally enhanced the period to 42 months.

In the year 2016 itself, the entire loan amount with respect to each flat was disbursed by the Financial Institution concerned to the builder co. Till 2018, the complainant paid about 90% of the total price of the respective flats.

Complainant was aggrieved that the builder Co. failed to fulfil the contractual obligation as there was no remarkable progress at the site in question.

Even though the construction was not completed, Builder Co. was demanding full payment.

Being aggrieved with the above-stated of affairs and attitude and deficiency ins service by the Builder Co., the complainant filed complaints under Section 21(a)(i) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 seeking a refund of the entire amount paid to the Builder Co. with 24% per annum interest.

Builder Company also failed to file its written version with the statutory period of 30 days and the extended period of 15 days thereafter as prescribed under Section 13(1)(a) of the Act which expired on 01-01-2020, 04-01-2020 and 16-01-2020 respectively.

Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage (P) Ltd., (2015) 16 SCC 20, held that the Consumer Fora, including this Commission, has no power to condone the delay beyond the period of 45 days from the date of receipt of the notice.

Commission’s Decision

1. Commission firstly addressed whether the purchase of three flats by the complainant would constitute the “COMMERCIAL PURPOSE” within the meaning of Section 2(1)(d) of the Act, 1986?

Bench relied on the decision of Supreme Court in Laxmi Engineering Works v. P.S.G Industrial Institute, (1995) 3 SCC 583, wherein it was held that the,

‘commercial purpose’ is a question of fact to be decided in the facts of each case and it is not the value of the goods that matters but the purpose for which the goods brought are put to. The same would be equally applicable to for hiring or availing service.

In the instant case, Builder Co. failed to show any evidence indicating that the complainant indulged in sale purchase of the properties in question for further sale or for earning benefits, hence the Complainant came under the ambit of Section 2(1)(d) of the Act, 1986 which defines “Consumer”.

2. Were the complaints filed prematurely?

The anxiety and apprehension of the Complainant about the impossibility of the completion of the Project before the agreed date was justified.

Any aggrieved Consumer has a right to approach at any stage the Forum or Commission for the redressal.

3. The refund of the deposited amount with the Builder Co.

Bench stated that for an ordinary common Buyer – Consumer, the two fundamentals, which are significant and material the ‘Cost’ i.e. the total cost, read with the schedule of making payment and the ‘Time’ that the total time period in which possession would be delivered.

Therefore, in the instant case two natural corollaries flow therefrom:

  • Consumer-Complainant has the fundamental option to obtain the possession of the Unit as and when it is offered by the Builder Co. and in addition, seek just and equitable compensation under the Act, 1986 for the delay in offering possession beyond the conveyed and understood period of 42 months if the delay was unreasonable.
  • Consumer-Complainant has the other option to claim a refund of the principal amount; interest thereon; and compensation, if the offer of possession of the Unit is unreasonably delayed beyond 42 months.

In the present matter, the complainant was not interested in taking possession, hence the builder Co. has to refund the entire amount received from the Complainant. 

4. Quantum of Compensation the complainant is entitled to.

Bench stated that indefinite or unreasonable delay with token compensation for delay cannot continue ad nauseam, ad infinitum (such a situation would be absurd).

In view of the line of facts, Bench held that the Complainant availed loan from the Financial Institutions and paid the interest as levied.

Thus, the Complainant is entitled to get a refund of the amount along with the interest which he has deposited with the Bank. The Complainant is also entitled to receive certain interest on the booking amount which he has paid to the Builder Co.

For the above-stated position, Bench relied on the decision of Wg. Cdr. Arifur Rahman Khan and Aleya Sultana v. DLF Southern Homes (P) Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine SC 667.

While reasoning out it’s decision, Commission stated that any impediments or problems that arise in Planning, Execution and Completion are builder’s responsibility, and not of the Consumer.

Hence, OP is liable to refund the amount which the Complainant paid to them for purchase of the flats in questions, along with appropriate interest on that amount.

However, Commission added that the rate of interest also cannot be arbitrary or whimsical, some reasonable and acceptable rationale has to be evident, subjectivity has to be minimised, a logical correlation has to be established.

Decision Summarised:

  • Refund to the Complainant the entire booking amount deposited by the Complainant till December 2018 alongwith interest @ 8% per annum from the date of deposit till the date of payment.
  • If the Complainant has paid any amount towards the loan account to the Financial Institutions, the same shall be refunded by the Builder Co. with the amount of interest actually paid to the Financial Institutions to the Complainant.
  • Builder Co. shall pay the entire balance loan amount disbursed to it alongwith the agreed rate of interest (Home Loan), as mentioned in the Tripartite Agreement to the Financial Institutions.

[Ankur Goyal v. Rise Project (P) Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine NCDRC 465, decided on 14-10-2020]

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): A Division bench of Justice R.K. Agrawal (President) and S.M. Kanitkar (Member) directed the developer to refund the principal amount along with compensation in the form of 9% p.a. interest and 25,000 as litigation costs in view of a 4-year delay in giving the possession of the apartment.

Consumer complaint was filed against Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Limited.

Complainants booked an apartment in the Pioneer Group Housing Project called “Araya” for an amount of Rs 30,00,000. Pursuant to the execution of apartment buyer’s agreement, a unit was allotted to the complainants.

Complainants submitted that on visiting the site regularly they were surprised to see no progress in the construction of the project. Entire site seemed to be an abandoned piece of land with semi constructed structure. 

Failed to deliver the possession of Apartment

Till 16.12.2015 complainants had paid a sum of 3,22,18,954 out of the total consideration of 3,45,22,779 i.e. almost 95% of the total Consideration towards the cost of the apartment.

However, the Developer failed to deliver the possession of the Unit, complete in all respect, even after expiry of a long period of approx. five years despite repeated requests and remedies over letters, email, phone calls and personal visits.

Hence, in view of the above, complainants alleged deficiency in service on the developer’s part.

Complainants by the present petition sought more than contractual benefits from the developer.

Natural causes

Developer contended that the delay in completing the project was due to reasons beyond their control. Further, for refund and compensation, the Complainants have to adhere to the provisions made in Clause 11.5 of the Agreement.

Clause 11.5 of the Apartment-Buyer’s Agreement

Bench observed that, with regard to Clause 11.5 of the Agreement upon which the reliance has been placed by the Developer for refund and compensation payable to the Complainants, this Commission in Consumer Complaint No. 2000 of 2016 – Geeta Bansal v. Ireo Grace Realtech (P) Ltd.  – decided on 24-09-2018,  held that such a Clause is wholly one sided and unfair and, therefore, the Complainants would not be bound by the same. If the Developer is unable to justify the delay, this Commission would be competent to direct refund of the amount paid by them to the Developer along with appropriate compensation.

However, Pioneer had approached Supreme Court against the decision taken by Commission in the above Order, but Supreme Court affirmed the finding returned by this Commission and dismissed the Civil Appeals.

Hence, in the present matter, commission referring to the Supreme Court’s decision, allowed the complainant and directed the OP-Developer to refund the principal amount with compensation in form of simple interest @9% p.a. with costs of Rs 25,000 to be pid to the complainants.

Interest was awarded in light of the current market situation and three months times has been granted to the developer to refund the same. [Smita Uban v. Pioneer Urban Land & Infrastructure Ltd., Consumer Case No. 1430 of 2017, decided on 23-07-2020]