From ET Realty
PUNE: A builder cannot deny customers the benefit of cost escalation by simply returning the booking amount without any interest or compensation for making them wait for years and not delivering flats.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) made a ruling to this effect on Wednesday, providing relief to 132 Pune residents. They had together paid over Rs 1.34 crore as booking amount in 2009-10 to KDS Infra Buildcons, a partnership firm in Vishrantwadi, for flats in the proposed KDS Dham and KDS Angan schemes at Charholi Budruk. But the firm sold the land for the proposed schemes to a third party, leaving the buyers in the lurch.
The commission directed the firm to refund Rs 1.34 crore with 18% interest per annum and pay Rs 4 lakh compensation to the customers. The Akhil Bharatiya Grahak Panchayat (ABGP) took up the customers’ cause by filing complaint through its adviser Vijay Sagar, and representatives Vijay Kharmale and Ajay Suryavanshi.
The NCDRC bench of Justice J M Malik and Justice S M Kanitkar relied on a September 19, 2012 ruling by the Supreme Court that by simply returning the booking amount, the complainant was being deprived of the flat and also the benefit of escalation of price of that flat. Therefore, the compensation should necessarily have to be higher as the complainant had deposited the money in the hope of getting the flat.
Giving benefit of the SC ruling, the bench observed, “The complainants reside in Pune and have come all the way from Pune to file the complaint before this commission in Delhi. They are contesting this case for the about four years, therefore, we grant them total compensation in the sum of Rs 4 lakh.”
The 18% interest per annum on refund of the booking amount has to be paid from the date each buyer booked the flat, till realization. The Rs 4 lakh compensation has to be paid within 90 days and, in default, the same would attract 18% interest per annum till realization.
The firm and its partners Bhupendrasingh Dhillon, Maruti Budhaji Kadale and Abhijit Maruti Kadale, all residents of NIBM Road in Kondhwa, were named opposite parties (OPs) in the matter. They admitted before the bench that they had to pay back Rs 1.34 crore to the complainants but the 18% interest demanded was on the higher side.
The commission dismissed their contention that the person with whom they had an agreement for land to develop the schemes sold the property to a third party without their knowledge and hence they themselves were cheated. “The sale order (7/12 extract) hardly dovetails with this contention,” the bench observed. On the argument that the complainants paid only 10% of the purchase price in 2009-10, the commission observed, “The complainants have waited for their houses for the last six years. It is now apparent that they would not get houses during their lifetime from the opposite parties . They will have to try somewhere else. ”