The jurisdiction of Consumer Forums vis-a-vis the specific remedies created under the RERA Act

The jurisdiction of Consumer Forums vis-a-vis the specific remedies created under the RERA Act

The jurisdiction of Consumer Forums vis-a-vis the specific remedies created under the RERA Act

The jurisdiction of Consumer Forums vis-a-vis the specific remedies created under the RERA Act

#Jurisdiction #ConsumerForums #RERAAct #Judiciary #CivilService #LawOptional #AllIndiaBarExamination2022


CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6044 of 2019 Dated: APRIL 07, 2022


Facts of the case

The Developer, M/s Experion Developers Private Ltd., is the promoter of apartment units, Windchants, in Sector 112, Gurgaon, Haryana. The Consumer booked an apartment measuring 3525 sq. ft. for a total consideration of Rs. 2,36,15,726/- in the Windchants and agreed for construction linked payment plan, which led to the execution of the Apartment Buyer’s Agreement dated 26.12.2012. As per Clause 10.1 of the Agreement, possession was to be given within 42 months from the date of approval of the building plan or the date of receipt of the approval of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India for the Project or date of the execution of the agreement whichever is later. Clause 13 of the Agreement provided for Delay Compensation. Under this clause, if the Developer did not offer possession within the period stipulated in the Agreement, it shall pay liquidated damages of Rs. 7.50 per square foot per month till possession is offered to the Consumer.

The Consumer approached the National Disputes Redressal Commission by filing an original complaint alleging that he has paid a total consideration of Rs. 2,06,41,379/- and possession was not granted even till the filing of the complaint. He, therefore, sought a refund of Rs. 2,06,41,379/- along with interest @ 24% p.a.

The Commission allowed the complaint. The Commission found that the agreement is one-sided, heavily loaded against the allottee and entirely in favour of the Developers. Following the decisions of Supreme Court in Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Ltd. v. Govind Raghvan,5 (“Pioneer”), the Commission directed the Developer to refund the amount of Rs.2,36,15,726/- with interest @ 9% p.a. It is against these findings and the consequential directions of the Commission that the Developer and Consumer both filed an appeal.

Issues, Analysis and Order

I. Whether the terms of the Apartment Buyers Agreement amount to an ‘unfair trade practice’ and whether the Commission is justified in not giving effect to the terms of Apartment Buyer’s Agreement as laid down in the Pioneer case?

The Supreme Court referred to its earlier judgment in Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Ltd. v. Govindan Raghvan (2019) 5 SCC 725  where it held as under:

“6.3 The National Commission in the impugned order dated 23-10-2018 held that the clauses relied upon by the builder were wholly one-sided, unfair and unreasonable, and could not be relied upon………

“6.8 A term of a contract will not be final and binding if it is shown that the flat purchasers had no option but to sign on the dotted line, on a contract framed by the builder. The contractual terms of the agreement dated 8-5-2012 are ex facie one-sided, unfair and unreasonable. The incorporation of such one-sided clauses in an agreement constitutes an unfair trade practice as per Section 2(r) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 since it adopts unfair methods or practices for the purpose of selling the flats by the builder.”

Having examined various decisions, the Supreme Court held that the Commission is correct in its approach in holding that the clauses of the agreement are one-sided and that the Consumer is not bound to accept the possession of the apartment and can seek refund of the amount deposited by her with interest.

II. Whether the Commission has the power under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 to direct refund of the amount deposited by the Consumer with interest?

This question is no more res integra. In Imperia Structures Ltd v. Anil Patni11, the Supreme Court speaking through Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, examined the jurisdiction of Consumer Forums vis-a-vis the specific remedies created under the RERA Act. This judgment comprehensively deals with all aspects of parallel remedies available to the consumers under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and the RERA Act, 2016. It says-

“23. It has consistently been held by this Court that the remedies available under the provisions of the CP Act are additional remedies over and above the other remedies including those made available under any special statutes; and that the availability of an alternate remedy is no bar in entertaining a complaint under the CP Act.

25. In terms of Section 18 of the RERA Act, if a promoter fails to complete or is unable to give possession of an apartment duly completed by the date specified in the agreement, the promoter would be liable, on demand, to return the amount received by him in respect of that apartment if the allottee wishes to withdraw from the Project. Such right of an allottee is specifically made “without prejudice to any other remedy available to him”. The right so given to the allottee is unqualified and if availed, the money deposited by the allottee has to be refunded with interest at such rate as may be prescribed. The proviso to Section 18(1) contemplates a situation where the allottee does not intend to withdraw from the Project. In that case he is entitled to and must be paid interest for every month of delay till the handing over of the possession. It is up to the allottee to proceed either under Section 18(1) or under proviso to Section 18(1). The case of Himanshu Giri came under the latter category. The RERA Act thus definitely provides a remedy to an allottee who wishes to withdraw from the Project or claim return on his investment.

26. It is, therefore, required to be considered whether the remedy so provided under the RERA Act to an allottee is the only and exclusive modality to raise a grievance and whether the provisions of the RERA Act bar consideration of the grievance of an allottee by other fora.

30. On the strength of the law so declared, Section 79 of the RERA Act does not in any way bar the Commission or Forum under the provisions of the CP Act to entertain any complaint.”

A three Judges bench of Supreme Court in IREO Grace Realtech (P) Ltd. v. Abhishek Khanna & Ors. (2021) 3 SCC 241  concurred with Imperia Structures Ltd v. Anil Patni & Anr. (2020) 10 SCC 783  judgment and held-

42. In a recent judgment delivered by this Court in Imperia Structures Ltd. v. Anil Patni, it was held that remedies under the Consumer Protection Act were in addition to the remedies available under special statutes. The absence of a bar under Section 79 of the r to the initiation of proceedings before a fora which is not a civil court, read with Section 88 of the RERA Act makes the position clear. Section 18 of the RERA Act specifies that the remedies are “without prejudice to any other remedy available”. We place reliance on this judgment..…

It is crystal clear that the Consumer Protection Act and the RERA Act neither exclude nor contradict each other. In fact, the Supreme Court has held that they are concurrent remedies operating independently and without primacy. When Statutes provisioning judicial remedies fall for construction, the choice of the interpretative outcomes should also depend on the constitutional duty to create effective judicial remedies in furtherance of access to justice. A meaningful interpretation that effectuates access to justice is a constitutional imperative and it is this duty that must inform the interpretative criterion.

A consumer invoking the jurisdiction of the Commission can seek such reliefs as he/she considers appropriate. A consumer can pray for refund of the money with interest and compensation. The consumer could also ask for possession of the apartment with compensation. The consumer can also make a prayer for both in the alternative. If a consumer prays for refund of the amount, without an alternative prayer, the Commission will recognize such a right and grant it, of course subject to the merits of the case. If a consumer seeks alternative reliefs, the Commission will consider the matter in the facts and circumstances of the case and will pass appropriate orders as justice demands.

The Court has held that the Commission has the power and jurisdiction to direct return of money under Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act, if a consumer so chooses. The freedom to choose the necessary relief is of the Consumer and it is the duty of the Courts to honour it.

III. Whether the relief granted by the Commission require any modification to serve ends of justice?

The interest payable on the amount deposited to be restitutionary and also compensatory, interest has to be paid from the date of the deposit of the amounts. The Commission in the order impugned has granted interest from the date of last deposit. We find that this does not amount to restitution. Following the decision in DLF Homes Panchkula Pvt. Ltd. v. DS Dhanda and Ors. (2020) 16 SCC 318 (at para 21)   and in modification of the direction issued by the Commission, the Supreme Court directed that the interest on the refund shall be payable from the dates of deposit.