New Delhi: In a move that will cheer homebuyers, the Supreme Court on Tuesday has made it convenient for homebuyers troubled by unscrupulous builders to approach the National Consumer Commission for relief.
The apex court overruled an objection by real estate companies that only homebuyers whose flats were worth Rs 1 crore and above should be allowed to approach the national forum.
Dismissing a petition filed by Amrapali Group, the Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, AM Khanwilkar, and Mohan M Shantanagouder upheld a recent order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) favouring the homebuyers.
The Amrapali Group, represented by advocate Rakesh Kumar, challenged the NCDRC order of August 30, 2016 contending that the national consumer forum can entertain only those complaints whose flats cost over Rs 1 crore. Citing “pecuniary jurisdiction” of the NCDRC, the company asked the apex court to direct owners of flats priced below Rs 1 crore to approach the State consumer forum.
The idea of residents forming an association to show the collective worth of property to be beyond Rs 1 crore was also opposed by the company as it argued that each buyer is a separate entity and these could not be clubbed together for coming within NCDRC’s jurisdiction.
But the court was not in favour of entertaining the appeals. Dismissing the same, the Bench said that allowing the buyers to approach the State Consumer Forum will be a time-consuming affair. Rather, the court preferred the association of homebuyers to get a collective order from the national forum to decide the matter once and for all.
The court refused to interfere with the NCDRC order of August 30, thus paving way for the association of Amrapali Sapphire township homebuyers in Noida to pursue with their complaint against the Amrapali Group for failing to deliver possession within stipulated time.
In its appeal, the real estate company had further questioned whether an association of homebuyers registered under the Societies Registration Act could be entitled to lodge a complaint in the consumer forum without being recognised as per the National Consumer Commission Act.
Section 12(1)(b) of the said Act stated that for an association to file a consumer complaint, it must be recognised under the Bureau of Indian Standards (Recognition of Consumers’ Associations) Rules, 1991. This objection too was discarded both by the NCDRC and the SC. Had this rule been upheld, every consumer association would have been forced to obtain a certificate from Ministry of Consumer Affairs prior to filing of a complaint.