Builder delaying handover of your flat? Fight together!

In a land mark judgment passed by the Supreme Court, the Apex court on Tuesday paved the way for homebuyers to directly drag builders to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) for delay in delivering the projects.

The court, however, said that homebuyers must come ‘together’ to fulfill the parameters required for filing a case under the Consumer Protection Act. The Supreme Court has held that flat buyers can jointly approach the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in case of a dispute with a builder, where the aggregate value exceeds Rs 1 crore

As per Definition of “Complainant” laid u/s 2 (1) [(iv)] of the Consumer Protection Act,1986, one or more consumers where there are numerous consumers having the same interests can move directly to the Consumer Court seeking redressal of their grievances subject to prescribed pecuniary jurisdiction of the respective court.

A bench headed by justice Dipak Misra, rejected the appeal of Amrapali Sapphire Developers Pvt Ltd, challenging the NDCRC decision on the ground that a plea can be filed directly before the apex consumer commission if the total value of the disputed deal is over Rs 1 crore and the 43 buyers cannot file a joint plea before the NCDRC.

According to the Consumer Protection Act, if the cost involved is less than Rs 1 crore, the complainant has to first file the plea at the district consumer forum. The realtor submitted before the bench, also comprising justices AM Khanwilkar and MM Shantanagoudar that the cost of each flat was less than Rs 1 crore and so, the buyers were individually ineligible to directly approach the NCDRC.

In this case, the NDCRC had allowed multiple individuals, who bought flats from real estate developer Amrapali, to club their cases to cross the Rs 1 crore ceiling, which was challenged by the builder before the apex court. The 43 buyers got together and formed Amrapali Sapphire Flat Buyers Welfare Association, to file the complaint against the builder in May 2016, for delay in handing over possession of their flats.

The apex court’s ruling comes as a breather for others stuck with delayed flats to approach the apex consumer commission in a similar manner.

“Once it is accepted that a consumer complaint on behalf of more than one consumer can be filed by a recognised consumer association, it can hardly be disputed that it is the aggregate value of the services which has to be taken for the purpose of determining pecuniary jurisdiction of the consumer forum before which the complaint is filed,” it had said.