From ET Realty
PUNE: An Indian citizen or an NRI owning multiple properties for investment and profit cannot qualify as a “consumer” within the meaning of the Consumer Protection (CP) Act, 1986.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held it recently. A two-member national commission bench of Justice J M Malik and S M Kanitkar recently dismissed a consumer complaint of NRI Manohar Damecha, owner of properties in Pune and Tamil Nadu, against the Lavasa Corporation’s move to terminate an agreement for long-term lease of a 2,729sqft villa in Lavasa project at Dasave in Mulshi taluka of Pune district.
The commission cited its 2007 ruling in a similar case against DLF Universal Limited in Gurgaon. It held that multiple properties purchased by the complainants for profit and transaction were ‘relatable’ to commercial purpose. The complainants, in such cases, do not fall within the definition of ‘consumers’ under the CP Act.
The bench cited another ruling in 2012, which held that even when a consumer has booked more than one unit of residential premises; it amounts to booking of such premises for investment/commercial purpose. Complaints in such cases are not maintainable before the commission and the complainants can seek other remedies like approaching a civil court, it held.
Damecha, a resident of Pudumjee Park in New Rasta Peth here, stated in his complaint on October 30, 2015, that he and his wife had decided to invest in the villa of the Lavasa project as their children were to study in India. Their decision was spurred by media reports that a renowned UK-based school would open at Lavasa in September 2009.
He claimed to have paid Rs 93.56 lakh in seven instalments for the villa, which was not given to them till April 8, 2013 and on August 26, 2015 he was threatened with termination of the agreement. He demanded either refund of Rs 93.56 lakh or possession of the villa and Rs 10 lakh token compensation for deficient service.
On November 11, 2015, the commission observed that Damecha was conspicuously silent about his other properties and directed him to file an affidavit detailing the same. Damecha stated in his affidavit later that he owned four plots at Lavarde in Mulshi taluka, a 5,050sqft shop at Hadapsar in Pune city, a plot in Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu and a 2,729 sqft built-up area villa taken on a 999-year lease from Lavasa Corporation at Dasave.
The commission held that Damecha could not explain how the villa was critical to his family’s livelihood or for the education of his children. “The grounds of education of children was taken in 2007-08. Eight years have elapsed and the children must be pursuing their studies in the country where they are residing. Moreover, the particulars of the children did not see the light of the day. The status of the education of the children then was not stated. There is not even an iota of evidence to show that certain steps were taken in that regard by both the husband and the wife,” the commission observed. Moreover, the UK-based school never opened in Pune, it noted.
The commission observed, “In case the NRIs, like the complainant, are allowed to save the court fees, the very purpose of ordinary consumer or as defined by the act, shall stand defeated. Consequently, we find that the present case is not maintainable and the same is, therefore, dismissed in limine (at admission stage).”
It ruled that the complainant was at liberty to seek remedy before any other appropriate forum or civil court.