Supreme Court made it clear that despite the enactment of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, homebuyers can still pursue remedies against real estate firms for redressal, including refund and compensation, for the delay in handing over the possession of the bought homes.
The top court on Monday declined the contention of real estate firm M/s Imperia Structures Ltd who stated that once the special 2016 law, RERA, came into force, all the queries related to construction and completion of the property have to be dealt with under this law, and therefore, NCDRC ought not to have entertained consumer complaints.
Taking note of the RERA provisions and Consumer Protection Act, the bench of Justice U U Lalit and Justice Vineet Saran drew attention to various judgments and stated that though proceedings before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) are judicial proceedings, the commission at the same time is not a civil court within the meaning of the Code of Civil Procedure’s provisions.
The 45-page judgment stated, “It may have all the trappings of the civil court, but yet it cannot be called a civil court…On the strength of the law so declared, Section 79 of the RERA Act does not in any way bar the (Consumer) Commission or Forum under the provisions of the CP Act to entertain any complaint.”
Right after the RERA enactment, real estate firms had been stating that consumer fora have no right to deal with consumer complaints.
“The RERA does not statutorily force a person to withdraw any such complaint nor do the provisions of the RERA Act create any mechanism for transfer of such pending proceedings to authorities under the RERA Act. Again, insofar as cases, where such proceedings under the CP Act are initiated after the provisions of the RERA Act, came into force, there is nothing in the RERA Act which bars such initiation. The absence of bar under Section 79 to the initiation of proceedings before a fora which cannot be called a Civil Court and express saving under Section 88 of the RERA Act, make the position quite clear,” the judgment said.
“Thus, the parliamentary intent is clear that a choice or discretion is given to the allottee whether he wishes to initiate appropriate proceedings under the CP Act or file an application under the RERA Act,” stated the judgment.
SC decision came on an appeal made by M/s Imperia Structures Ltd challenging the NCDRC order on the complaint of ten homebuyers of a housing scheme named ‘ESFERA’ in Sector 13C, Gurgaon, Haryana.
The project was started in 2011, and the homebuyers had booked their apartment between 2011-2012. They had alleged that despite the lapse of 42 months, they didn’t got possession of their dream homes.
“The directions are to be complied within four weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the order, failing which, the amount shall attract interest at the rate of 12 percent per annum for the said period,” said NCDRC order.
The apex court upheld the NCDRC order and stated that as promised, the construction should have been completed in 42 months.
The bench further stated, “Resultantly, we reject all the submissions advanced by the Appellant (real estate firm). These appeals are accordingly dismissed affirming the view taken by the Commission. We quantify the costs at Rs 50,000 to be paid by the appellant in respect of each of the Consumer Cases, over and above the amounts directed to be made over to the Complainants and shall form part of the amount payable by the Appellant to the Complainants.”