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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: S.C. Gupte, J., held that a real estate developer cannot rely on usual ‘force majeure’ clause to deny possession to homebuyers.

The instant appeal challenged the Order passed by RERA Appellate Tribunal, Mumbai.

Original Complaint that was filed by the respondent was:

Respondent who was a flat purchaser and who had claimed interest from the appellant for the delay in handing over of possession of the premises, for the period from the date of possession stipulated under the agreement till the date of actual possession.

Further, it was stated that Maharashtra Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 while accepting the respondent’s claim awarded interest from January 2018; the adjudicating authority gave six months extension on a unilateral basis to the appellant by way of a grace period.

When the above-stated matter was carried in appeal by the respondent-complainant in RERA Appellate Tribunal it was held that there was no specific clause in the agreement, entitling appellant/promoter to any grace period of six months or otherwise.

Appellate Tribunal observed that the date of delivery of possession of the premises stipulated under the agreement was on or before 30 June 2017 and, accordingly, directed payment of interest from 01-07-2017 till the date of delivery of possession of the premises.

Appellant’s Counsel submitted that the agreement referred to above contained a clause that the possession date was subject inter alia to any cause beyond the control of the Developer including any order of the Centre, Local Authority or Body or due to delay in issuing completion certificate or occupation certificate by the Authorities.

It was noted from the above contention that the said clause was nothing but an ordinary force majeure clause, where the promoter cannot be faulted for the delay in delivery of possession, if such delay is caused by any reason beyond his control.

Force Majeure clause doesn’t provide for any grace period to the promoter.

Bench while considering the facts of the case stated that it is apparent from the record that the adjudicating authority was not impressed by any of the reasons submitted by the appellant towards the justification for the delay.

Adding to the above, Court found that the order of the adjudicating authority proceeded on the basis that even if facts pointed out by the Promoter were to be taken into consideration as justification for the delay, a six months’ grace period could be granted for delivery of possession to the Promoter.

“…neither the Appellate Tribunal nor the adjudicating authority found in favour of the Appellant/Promoter insofar as its case for justification of the delay was concerned.”

Hence, a grace period of six months considered by adjudicating authority was nothing but an ad-hoc measure and was rightly not accepted by the Appellate Tribunal.

Accordingly, the substantial question of law arose from Appellate Tribunal’s impugned order.

Therefore, the second appeal was dismissed. [Westin Developers (P) Ltd. v. Raymond Alexis Nunes, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 3912, decided on 04-12-2020]


Advocates who appeared for the matter:

Dakshesh Vyas a/w Dominic D’Souza and Sumit Kothari i/b. Agrud Partners, for Appellant/Applicant.

Huzefa Nasikwala a/w Sujit S. Mashal i/b. Nasikwala Law Office, for Respondent.