NEW DELHI: In a landmark judgement, the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has stated that consumers seeking compensation worth Rs 1 crore and more or a group of consumers with similar grievances against a builder can now approach the national commission.
This judgment will help expedite justice delivery as now consumers can get together and appeal directly to the national commission instead of going through the long-drawn, three-tier process of district and state commissions before reaching the national commission. A larger bench of the national commission was interpreting Section 12 (1) (c) of the Consumer Protection Act in October on a reference to an order by a smaller bench in August this year. Though the judgement has been delivered in the context of a real estate case, experts say it will certainly have implications in class action cases.
Interpreting the relevant section, in reference to a consumer case of Ambrish Kumar Shukla versus Ferrous Infrastructure, on October 7, 2016, a three-judge bench of NCDRC said that “a complaint under Section 12 (1) (c) of the Consumer Protection Act is maintainable before this commission where the aggregate of the value of the goods purchased or the services hired or availed of by all the consumers on whose behalf or for whose benefit the complaint is instituted and the total compensation, if any, claimed in respect of all such consumers exceeds Rs 1 crore. The value of the goods purchased or the services hired and availed of by an individual consumer or the size, or date of booking/allotment/purchase of the flat would be wholly irrelevant in such a complaint where the complaint relates to the sale/allotment of several flats/plots in the same project/ building.”
At present, consumers have to move the district forum, followed by state commissions and then the national commission said Abir Phukan, advocate, KMNP Law. “Often where the consumers do not get relief in cases where pecuniary jurisdiction is made out only in district forums or state commissions, they have to go through the time-consuming process of preferring appeals or revisions to challenge the lower court’s order. This order will give similarly placed consumers an option of approaching the national commission directly.”
Consumers are generally seen forming associations and moving the consumer forums for redressal of their grievances. The NCRDC, however, stated that a cooperative society or a group of cooperative societies is not entitled to file a complaint under Section 12 (1) (c).
Speaking on the judgment, advocate Vijay Chauhan said: “The order will not only benefit consumers having similar interests and grievances but will add to their strength while challenging deficiencies in services provided by the powerful builders.”
Credits ET Realty