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]

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

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): R.K. Agrawal (President) while deciding the present consumer case held that,

“Wherever the Builder commits a particular date or time frame for completion of the construction and offering possession to the Buyer, they must necessarily honour the commitment made by them.”

In the present matter, Consumer Complaints, under Section 21 read with Section 12(1)(a) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986  have been filed by the Complainants, the Allottees of Residential Flats/Apartments in a Project, namely, “Mahagun Mezzaria” to be developed and constructed by the Opposite Party, seeking possession of their respective booked Flats or refund of the amount paid with interest and compensation for the losses suffered by them on account of Unfair and Restrictive Trade Practices adopted and the deficient services rendered by the Opposite Party in not handing over the possession of the allotted Flats/Apartments within the stipulated time.

Complainant stated that despite paying the entire sale consideration for the booked flat, the possession of the same, which was to be delivered has not materialized till date, penalty promised in the Allotment Letter for the delay in construction has also not been paid, layout plan of the project has been got amended twice making various changes to the Project including addition of commercial shops open to general public raising various concerns including safety and security, that the Complainants have to pay enhanced Samp duty due to delay in handing over of possession and that the OP has levied the maintenance charges that would be enhanced @15% annually.

Analysis & Decision

Counsel for OP’s contention that Complainants are not ‘Consumers’ and have booked the Flat for earning high speculative gains is not supported by any documentary evidence. Court also noted that Complainants are ‘Consumer’ as defined under Section 2(1) (d) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Tribunal further stated that the only question for consideration in the present case is, as to whether the Complainants are entitled to any compensation for the delay on the part of the OP in offering possession to them and if so, what should be the quantum of compensation that OP needs to pay to them.

With respect to delay in completion of the construction, the tribunal stated that unless prevented by reasons beyond it control, the OP was under a contractual obligation to complete the construction and handover possession of the apartments within 38 months from the date of completion of raft or on or before 31-12-2012.

The reasons for the delay as stated by the Developer amounted to demonetization and implementation of GST, which ultimately resulted to cause delay on account of the shortage of cash for payment to the labour, shortage of labour and material, no documents were placed on record by the OP. Therefore the said contention cannot be accepted.

OP is ready and willing to hand over possession of the allotted flats with compensation to the Complainants, but some Complainants are not interested in the same due to delay of more than 4 years in delivering the possession change in layout plan and there being no committed date in the near future of completion of the Project. Therefore, they have sought a refund of the amount along with interest and compensation.

Tribunal in view of the stated that, Complainants cannot be made to wait indefinitely for the delivery of the possession when they had already paid almost entire consideration. In such circumstances, it is well within the Complainant’s right to seek for refund of the principal amount with interest and compensation.

In the present case, Tribunal in favour of the Complainants also stated that, Complainants cannot be made to wait indefinitely as the possession of the Unit has not been handed over to them so far and the Opposite Party is enjoying the benefits of their hard-earning money deposited with it.

“If the Builder fails to comply with the contractual obligation and at the same time, is unable to show that the delay in completion of the Flat and offering its possession to the Consumer is on account of circumstances beyond his control, this would constitute deficiency on the part of the Builder/Service Provider in rendering services to the Consumer.”

Hence, Complainants cannot be made to wait for such a long period, they are entitled to refund of the deposited amount along with compensation @12%. [Anil Kumar Jain v. Nexgen Infracon (P) Ltd., 2019 SCC OnLine NCDRC 716, decided on 23-12-2019]

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

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): The Bench comprising of Justice R.K. Agrawal (President) and M. Shreesha (Member) while addressing a complaint with respect to “deficiency of services” by the developer granted compensation keeping in view of the “Principles of Natural Justice”.

In the present case, aggrieved preferred the first appeal against the order passed by the Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Mumbai under Section 19 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Complainant stated that there was a deficiency of service against the Developer since an amount of Rs 37, 00,000 was paid towards sale consideration for Flat No. 601 situated at Vijaya and on account of non-providing of certain amenities the Complainant cancelled the booking and sought for a refund of the amount paid. Despite the complainant having requested for interest several times as the Developer had retained her amount from 14-05-2010 till 31-01-2011, there was no response.

State Commission allowed the complainant in part with the aforenoted directions.

According to the respondent’s, though the ‘developer’ had offered the payment of the amount, the complainant refused the same as her stand was that since the ‘developer’ had taken the money, the ‘developer’ alone should come to her doorstep and handover the money. Though, the Complainant stated that the amount was never offered to her.

Appellant submitted that some amount of compensation was to be awarded to meet the ends of justice as the compensation amount awarded by the State Commission was paid subsequently after 5 years.

Reliance was placed on Ghaziabad Development Authority v. Balbir Singh, (2004) 5 SCC 65, wherein the Court discussed the grounds on which the compensation be awarded in matters of delayed possession.

In the present matter, interest @18% has been awarded by the State Commission. The fact that the respondents did not challenge the impugned order, but also complied with the order only after 4 years, the order dated 12-05-2012 and as per the submission of the appellant/complainant the cheque was handed over on 3-05-2016.

Thus, keeping in view the “Principles of Natural Justice”, Commission awarded Rs 75,000 towards compensation within 4 weeks. The appeal is allowed in part with aforenoted directions. [Leela Narasimhan v. Vijay Grihanirman (P) Ltd., 2019 SCC OnLine NCDRC 328, decided on 16-10-2019]

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

National Consumers Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): The Bench comprising of Justice R.K. Agrawal (President) and M. Shreesha (Member) while addressing a complaint filed under the Consumer Protection Act stated that:

“Complainants cannot be made to wait indefinitely for possession of the unit, as the construction is yet to be completed even after a period of more than 6 years has lapsed from the date of booking.”

The present complaint was filed against the “Developer” and “Construction Company” under Section 21(a)(i) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

In accordance with the facts of the case, Complainant had been looking for residential accommodation in Gurgaon, wherein he wanted to reside after his return from Tokyo, Japan. Complainant on his return to India booked a residential apartment of 5450 sq. ft. and paid an amount of Rs 4,12,98,926 by 03-09-2015.

It has been averred that, Flat Buyer’s Agreement was executed between the Developer and Complainant on 19-02-2013 and as per Clause 12 of the agreement, the possession of the apartment was to be delivered within 36 months with an additional grace period of 6 months, which ended on 19-08-2016.

Adding to the above, in December 2015, the complainant visited the site to see the development work and was shocked to see that the construction work had been completely stopped since January 2015. Complainant visited the corporate office of the developer and was informed that due to disputes with Construction Company, they had terminated the contract with them. The complainant was further assured that a new construction company would complete the balance work and the complainant shall receive the possession in terms of the agreement by February 2016 or at least within the extended period.

Again in January, 2017 complainant was disappointed to observe that no work was being carried out and he was assured by the officials of the “Developer” that the new construction company would complete the balance work. Once again in April 2018, on visiting the construction site he found that the site office was locked.

Thus, on multiple failures by the developer to respect the agreement in regard to the construction of the flat, Complainant had to send a legal notice to the Opposite Parties and further vexed with the attitude of the OP’s, the complainant approached the Commission.

Siddharth Yadav and Wasim Ashraf, Counsel appearing on behalf of the Complainants argued that despite repeated attempts to contact the “Developer” and seeking information regarding the progress of construction, there was no response for the same.

Commission in view of the above, relied on the decisions of the Supreme Court case in Pioneer Urban Land & Infrastructure Ltd. v. Govindan Raghavan, (2019) 5 SCC 725 and Kolkata West International City (P) Ltd. v. Devasis Rudra, (2019) CPJ 29 (SC), and opined in regard to the instant case that, “Complainants cannot be made to wait indefinitely for possession of the unit, as the construction is yet to be completed even after a period of more than 6 years has lapsed from the date of booking.”

Further, the Commission added to its observation that, there has been a deficiency of service on behalf of the OP’s. However, since the amounts were paid to the “Developer” the liability is fastened on the developer and not the “Construction Company”.

With the above, Complainant is allowed in part directing the “Developer” to refund 4,12,98,926 with interest at 12% p.a. from the respective dates of deposit till the date of realisation. [Alok Kumar v. Golden Peacock Residency (P) Ltd., 2019 SCC OnLine NCDRC 314, decided on 06-09-2019]