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.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of UU Lalit and Vineet Saran, JJ has held that the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA Act) does not bar the initiation of proceedings by allottees against the builders under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

“It is true that some special authorities are created under the RERA Act for the regulation and promotion of the real estate sector and the issues concerning a registered project are specifically entrusted to functionaries under the RERA Act. But for the present purposes, we must go by the purport of Section 18 of the RERA Act. Since it gives a right “without prejudice to any other remedy available’, in effect, such other remedy is acknowledged and saved subject always to the applicability of Section 79.”


Background of the Case


The said decision of the Court came in the matter relating of delay in handing over the possession of flats to buyers by the developer. The apartments were booked by the Complainants in 2011-2012 and the Builder Buyer Agreements were entered into in November, 2013. As promised, the construction should have been completed in 42 months. The period had expired well before the Project was registered under the provisions of the RERA Act. Even after four years there were no signs of the Project getting completed and hence, a complaint was filed by the Buyers.


RERA Act vis-à-vis CP Act: Statutory Analysis


The Court discussed the following provisions for the purpose of deciding the case at hand:

  • Section 79 of the RERA Act bars jurisdiction of a Civil Court to entertain any suit or proceeding in respect of any matter which the Authority or the adjudicating officer or the Appellate Tribunal is empowered under the RERA Act to determine.
  • Section 88 specifies that the provisions of the RERA Act would be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law.
  • Section 89 provides that the provisions of the RERA Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other law for the time being in force.

The Court noticed that an allottee placed in circumstances similar to that of the Complainants, could have initiated following proceedings before the RERA Act came into force.

A) If he satisfied the requirements of being a “consumer” under the CP Act, he could have initiated proceedings under the CP Act in addition to normal civil remedies.

B) However, if he did not fulfil the requirements of being a “consumer”, he could initiate and avail only normal civil remedies.

C) If the agreement with the developer or the builder provided for arbitration:-

i) in cases covered under Clause ‘B’ hereinabove, he could initiate or could be called upon to invoke the remedies in arbitration.

ii) in cases covered under Clause ‘A’ hereinabove, in accordance with law laid down in Emaar MGF Ltd v. Aftab Singh, (2019) 12 SCC 751, he could still choose to proceed under the CP Act.

The Court noticed that on plain reading of Section 79 of the RERA Act, an allottee described in category (B) stated hereinabove, would stand barred from invoking the jurisdiction of a Civil Court.

“The absence of bar under Section 79 to the initiation of proceedings before a fora which cannot be called a Civil Court and express saving under Section 88 of the RERA Act, make the position quite clear.”

To answer the question whether the Commission or Forum under the CP Act is a civil court or not, the Court referred to the decision in Malay Kumar Ganguli v. Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, (2009) 9 SCC 221 , where it was held,

“The proceedings before the National Commission are although judicial proceedings, but at the same time it is not a civil court within the meaning of the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure. It may have all the trappings of the civil court but yet it cannot be called a civil court.”

Hence, Section 79 of the RERA Act does not in any way bar the Commission or Forum under the provisions of the CP Act to entertain any complaint.

The Court further discussed the proviso to Section 71(1) of the RERA Act which entitles a complainant who had initiated proceedings under the CP Act before the RERA Act came into force, to withdraw the proceedings under the CP Act with the permission of the Forum or Commission and file an appropriate application before the adjudicating officer under the RERA Act. It noticed,

“The proviso thus gives a right or an option to the concerned complainant but does not statutorily force him to withdraw such complaint nor do the provisions of the RERA Act create any mechanism for transfer of such pending proceedings to authorities under the RERA Act. As against that the mandate in Section 12(4) of the CP Act to the contrary is quite significant.”

It was held that insofar as cases where such proceedings under the CP Act are initiated after the provisions of the RERA Act came into force, there is nothing in the RERA Act which bars such initiation. Further, Section 18 itself specifies that the remedy under said Section is “without prejudice to any other remedy available”.

“Thus, the parliamentary intent is clear that a choice or discretion is given to the allottee whether he wishes to initiate appropriate proceedings under the CP Act or file an application under the RERA Act.”

[Imperia Structures v. Anil Patni,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 894, decided on 02.11.2020]

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

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): Justice V.K. Jain (Presiding Member), while disposing of a complaint, directed the builder to provide compensation in the form of simple interest at 7 percent per annum from the expected date for delivery of possession till the date on which the possession was actually offered to the allottees. 

In the present matter, DLF Universal Limited, was the developer of a residential project. The residential apartments constructed by it were allotted to buyers who executed a Buyers’ Agreement. Developer was to complete construction within 36 months. Complainants submitted that Buyers’ Agreements were unilaterally prepared by the developer and since the earnest money paid by them could be forfeited if they refused to execute the agreement they were forced to sign it. On delay, the developer intimated the allottees to either accept delay of 16 months or to exit taking refund with simple interest at 9 percent per annum. They also disputed the increase in super area, and claimed refund of parking and club charges facility and service tax, and also demanded timely payment rebate and early payment rebate to all the apartment owners.

The counsel for respondent submitted that at time of booking itself, allottees were informed that schedule for delivering possession was tentative. It was submitted that early payment rebate had been given to all the allottees who made early payment, whereas timely payment rebate was adjusted for all allottees who were not in default at the time possession According to the developer the delay happened primarily on account of the abnormal time taken in approval of the building plans and the order issued by the Government of Delhi, stopping construction for a considerable time.

NCDRC held that the developer had not sought payment for increase in the super area beyond 15 percent, the allottees were required to pay for such an increase. Developer could not be allowed to charge separately from the allottees for the club area and the basements used for car parking. No force majeure circumstance had been sought on account of the delay in sanction of the building plans, in the force majeure chart submitted by the developer. 

Regarding the quantum of compensation, reliance was placed on  Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Ltd v. Govindan Raghavan, (2019) 5 SCC 725, and ordered the developer to pay compensation in the form of simple interest at 7 percent per annum from the expected date for delivery of possession till the date on which the possession was actually offered to them.

The Commission disposed off the petition,a sking  the developer to pay Rs 50,000 as litigation cost. [Capital Greens Flat Buyers Association v. DLF Universal Ltd., Consumer Case No. 351 of 2015, decided on 03-01-2020]