New Delhi, July 8: In a significant judgement that should help apartment owners, the top consumer court has directed a Ghaziabad-based builder and an official of an apartment block in Uttarakhand to "atone for their deficiencies" by rectifying defects in an apartment bought by two consumers or pay them over Rs.16 lakh in compensation cost for repairs and promised discount.
National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Presiding Member J. M. Malik slammed Maa Jhande Wali Constructions and Anil Gupta, managing director of Ganga Residency Apartment in Uttarakhand's Tehri Garwal, for an apparently non-serious approach towards the complaint filed by the flat owners and staying away to delay the proceedings in the subordinate consumer fora.
Malik, in a recent order, offered a breather to aggrieved flat owners Parth Prathim Saha and Pankaj Roy, both residents of Tripura, and noted: "On merits, the counsel for the (builder and Gupta) admitted that they are ready to rectify the deficiencies in the apartment which was sold to the purchasers."
Rejecting the builder's and the apartment official's appeal against an Uttarakhand Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission order that was in favour of Saha and Roy, Malik said: "The case of the petitioners is found to be at sixes and sevens and, therefore, the same is hereby dismissed. No order as to costs."
Malik said the case of the builder and Gupta is that in February 2012 the latter suddenly fell ill and, therefore, could not appear before the district forum. He also could not inform his counsel and consequently, the forum proceeded ex-parte against them.
"I am not impressed by the explanation advanced on behalf of the petitioners. There is no medical certificate which may go to depict that Anil Gupta fell ill in February, 2012, and remained sick till May 5, 2012, July 28, 2012, Oct 8, 2012 and April 5."
"According to him, he remained sick for 14 months. There is not even an iota of evidence which may go to bolster his case. The petitioners have failed to prove day-to-day delay. Their pleas are vague, evasive and lead the commission nowhere," Malik said.
Upholding the deficiency of service complaint of Saha and Roy, the national commission said: "The district forum has already ordered that builder and apartment officials were to rectify the defects as mentioned in... the complaint or pay Rs.15 lakh to the complainant as cost of repairs and also pay Rs.1.29 lakh towards the seven percent discount as mentioned in the brochure and Rs.2,000 towards litigation expenses."
Malik said the state consumer commission dismissed the first appeal filed by the builder and the official on the ground that it was barred by a delay of 250 days.
Pointing to the casual approach of the builder and Gupta, Malik said they did not care to file the application for condonation of delay that they gave "before the state commission. However, the order passed by the state commission gives all the necessary details of the application moved for condonation of delay".
Saha and Roy filed a complaint against Maa Jhande Wali Construction and Gupta in 2011.
The district forum passed an ex-parte order in favour of the flat buyer July 28, 2012.
Aggrieved by the district forum's order, an application for setting aside the ex-parte order was filed before the district forum by the builder and Gupta Nov 5, 2012. The application was dismissed April 5, 2013.
Aggrieved by that order the builder and Gupta preferred an appeal before the state consumer commission which was dismissed May 8. Following this, the builder and Gupta moved the national consumer commission against the state consumer commission's decision in favour of Saha and Roy.
The builder and Gupta now have the option of moving the Supreme Court against the national commission's order.
(Rahul Chhabra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)