MUMBAI: The national consumer commission has ruled that even if a flat buyer had initially sought refund due to delayed possession, in case the entire amount is not returned with reasonable interest and within reasonable time, the builder cannot say the agreement stands cancelled and avoid handing over the flat.
Upholding a state consumer commission’s order, the national forum on Friday ordered a city builder to hand over a flat in Malad (west) to a woman who had booked it in an under-construction building almost 20 years ago.
“We specifically note that in the year 2003, the complainant (Anita Lewis) had requested for refund of the entire amount paid by her, but the opposite party (Square One Enterprises) did not refund the amount, with or without interest, within reasonable time,” the national commission said.
It refuted the builder’s contention that the agreement had no mention of date of delivery of possession. Observing that a flat buyer cannot be made to wait for an indefinite period, the forum said, “We find that the said contention of the opposite party cannot go in its favour as it was its duty to mention the date of delivery of possession in the agreement, and the failure to do so necessarily requires to be read against it.”
When the builder did not hand over possession even two years after Lewis paid Rs 16 lakh in 2001, she sought a refund. She said that the letter was ignored. The total cost of the flat was Rs 21 lakh and it was understood that she would get possession by December 2002. Lewis further submitted that in October 2006, about 3 years and 5 months after she had sent the refund letter, she received a letter from the builder stating that since she had cancelled the agreement and paid only Rs 11 lakh, she could collect it with interest. The builder did not acknowledge Rs 4.5 lakh she had paid in cash. Lewis refused to take the money and in 2007, she learned that the builder was attempting to dispose of the flat through a broker. She moved the state commission that year.
In 2015, the state commission directed the builder to hand over possession after receiving the remaining payment of Rs 5.5 lakh. Lewis was also awarded a compensation of Rs 1.25 lakh towards mental agony and costs. Aggrieved, the builder moved the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in 2015. “It is also pertinent that even after filing of the consumer complaint, the opposite party initiated legal proceedings in the civil court with respect to the agreement, which was dismissed. Clearly, this conduct has a bad air,” the national commission said.