Subsequently, a Letter of Intent (LoI) was issued on May 22, 2012, promising possession within 36 months. Sharma paid Rs 58,65,000 more as demanded.
The Authority failed to deliver possession within the promised period. So Sharma sent a letter on July 1, 2016 seeking a refund of the entire amount paid by him, but his request was ignored.
Instead, a letter backdated June 30, 2016, was sent on July 4, 2016, offering possession of the apartment, but Sharma did not take possession. After a few months, the Authority sent a letter agreeing to refund the money without interest, subject to a deduction of
10% of the total price paid.
Sharma then filed a complaint before the Punjab State Commission, which was contested by the Authority.
The Commission overruled the objection raised by the Authority that the dispute should be referred to arbitration or a civil court, and held the consumer fora were competent to adjudicate the dispute. It concluded a consumer who is not given possession in time has a right to seek a refund. Accordingly, it directed the Authority to refund the entire amount along with 8% compound interest. In addition, Rs 50,000 was awarded as compensation and Rs 21,000 as litigation costs.
The Authority appealed against this order. The National Commission scrutinized the postal receipts and the envelopes and found the letter sent by the Authority had been despatched on July 4, 2016, but had been backdated to June 30, 2016, to make it appear it was sent a day prior to Sharma’s letter dated July 1, 2016.
Accordingly, by its order of January 2, 2019, delivered by the bench of Justice R K Agrawal and Justice M Shreesha, the National Commission dismissed the Authority’s appeal.
Conclusion: A flat purchaser can seek a refund along with interest and compensation if possession is delayed. Such a demand could be made at any time prior to the issuance of letter offering possession.
(The author is a consumer activist and has won the Govt.of India’s National Youth Award for Consumer Protection. His email is email@example.com )
Jehangir B Gai
ePaper, The Times of India, Bombay, Monday, January 07, 2019, Page 4: